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11 September, 2000
The "Washington Post" published on Saturday an article by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on the Olympic Truce during Olympic Games:
On July 24, International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch and I inaugurated in Athens a new nongovernmental organization: the International Olympic Truce Center. The center is an ambitious undertaking of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in cooperation with the Greek government, to promote an international cease-fire during the Olympics and the building of bridges among rivals throughout the four-year period between games.
In 2004, the Olympic Games will return to Greece, their ancient home, more than a century after their revival in 1896. This move is more than symbolic: It provides an opportunity to redefine the modern Olympics and to restore some of the ideals that inspired the ancient games.
In addition to the spirit of selfless contest that motivated the athletes, the ancient Olympics had a wider political--even spiritual--meaning. For the duration of the games, and while the athletes were traveling to and from Olympia, the "Holy Olympic Truce" (or "Ekecheiria") prevailed. During this time, warring peoples laid down their arms and attempted the paths of peace.
The injection into the modern Olympic movement of a similar motivation is something I have long believed possible, and is what motivated my government's proposal for the establishment of the center. The IOC and its president had already shown the way, when, in 1992, and as recently as 1999, they got the U.N. General Assembly to call on the nations of the world to desist from hostile armed activities during the games.
Many, inevitably, have described as hopelessly romantic or utopian the notion that an Olympic truce can interrupt the armed conflicts that rage throughout the world. But while not altogether dismissing the appeal of romanticism, I have to say that the doubters are viewing the Olympic truce initiative too literally.
In the first place, the General Assembly vote, during the Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, did encourage cease-fire arrangements permitting the supply of humanitarian aid to populations suffering the deprivations caused by armed conflicts in Bosnia. Truce, when implemented, can mean valuable time for constructing bridges of communication among adversaries, providing humanitarian support to children and adults in conflict-torn regions, helping to protect the natural environment, allowing the youth of the world to participate peacefully in the Olympic Games.
Beyond this concrete promise of truce, our purpose is more far-reaching: It is to activate the much-neglected potential of the Olympic movement. Attention is rightly given to the complex economic, town-planning and administrative dimensions of organizing the games; not enough thought is spared for the power of the Olympics as a factor in international rapprochement and public diplomacy.
In every society, culture, nation and neighborhood, young and old recognize the Olympics as the major sporting event of our world. In today's world the Olympics can be seen as a unique global cultural festival. This festival should promote and celebrate the values we wish to cherish in our developing global village.
Among the center's activities will be efforts to encourage mutual understanding and confidence between embattled rivals through the use of sport, culture and the promotion of the Olympic ideals of peace, friendship and international understanding. In preparing for a truce, athletes, children, sports officials, politicians and educators of warring parties could meet face to face under the center's auspices to discuss their differences. Those representing the younger generation in conflict-ridden areas could become "truce ambassadors."
Olympic Truce Youth Camps will operate in Olympia for the youth of embattled regions of the world. Educational and research programs that foster rapprochement and conflict resolution will be involved.
This initiative will give new life to the Olympics, and the opportunity for official agencies, nongovernmental organizations and private citizens throughout the world to take part in what I would like to call "a small revolution for peace."
Source: Athens News Agency