The IOC President addresses the UN General Assembly

In 1995, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch became the first IOC President to speak at the United Nations.

It was the centrepiece of a day-and-a-half of discussions which included contributions from Guy Drut (FRA), Lia Manoliu (ROU) and Bart Connor (USA), all of whom were Olympic champions.

In his address, Samaranch promised that “in all circumstances we shall continue to demonstrate and use Olympism as a force for conciliation and humanitarianism.”

For Samaranch, it was the culmination of many years of effort during which he had drawn on his own background as a diplomat to build relations between the IOC and the UN. In 1992, shortly before the Games opened in Barcelona, his home city, Samaranch read from a letter by then UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, calling for a truce in the conflict then raging in the former Yugoslavia.

“This would be a truce in the classical tradition and perhaps the beginning of a common bond and an increase in civic behaviour,” said Samaranch.

The UN agreed to designate 1994 as “International Year of Sport and the Olympic Ideal”, and Samaranch used his speeches at the Olympic ceremonies at the Lillehammer Winter Games to draw attention to a truce. Samaranch also led a delegation to Sarajevo to assure the citizens of the previous Olympic host city that they had not been forgotten.

The UN agreed to support a resolution which “revived the ancient Greek tradition of Ekecheiria, or Olympic Truce, calling for all hostilities to cease during the Games, thereby mobilising the youth of the world in the cause of peace”.

Samaranch described this as a “historic event for the Olympic Movement and an honour on the occasion of our centenary”. The request for a UN truce resolution became a regular event after the UN decided to address this item every two years “so as to be considered in advance of every Summer and Winter Olympic Games”.

Thomas Bach, IOC President,and Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary general (UN).Thomas Bach, IOC President, and Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary general (UN) - © IOC / Ian Jones

The relationship between the two organisations has continued to flourish. Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has carried the torch on a number of occasions and joined IOC President Thomas Bach in carrying the Olympic flame in Sochi and in Rio.

In 2018, Bach handed the flame for the PyeongChang Games to Miroslav Lajcak, then the President of the UN General Assembly. Earlier, Bach had told UN representatives: “Only the UN member states can guarantee the athletes a safe passage to the Olympic Games. They make it possible for all the Olympic athletes to realise their dream of a lifetime… the Olympic athletes show the whole world that it is possible to compete with each other while living peacefully together under one roof at the same time.”

The idea of truce was one that Baron Pierre de Coubertin had advocated back in the 1930s when Europe and Asia were both threatened by war. “I would heartily welcome the idea of the belligerents in time of war interrupting their fight for a time in order to celebrate the Games and display the strength of their muscles in a loyal and chivalrous manner.”

More information

Cooperation with the UN
President Bach at the UN

The United Nations has long recognised the contribution of sport for development and peace, and collaboration between the IOC and the UN has played a central role in spreading the acceptance of sport as a means to promote internationally agreed development goals.

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Olympic Truce
Olympic Truce Monument
The IOC has revived the ancient concept of the Olympic Truce that allowed participants to travel to and from the Olympic Games in total safety with a view to protecting the interests of athletes and sport in general. The IOC encourages all UN Member States to sign the Olympic Truce and find peaceful and diplomatic solutions to conflicts around the world.
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Evolution of the IOC


More about IOC History

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