The Olympic Truce, an idea reborn with every Olympic Games

13 Nov 2017
IOC News Peace

The Olympic Truce comes into effect every two years, to coincide with each edition of the Olympic Winter and Summer Games. It marks a time when the themes of peace and harmony are expressed through programmes implemented by countries, regions, cities and Olympic Games organising committees.

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The Olympic Truce is launched by two key stakeholders - the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the government of the host country - who help the organising committees of each edition of the Olympic Games develop their own programmes designed to promote friendship, respect and world peace.

With the IOC enjoying observer status at the United Nations (UN), it is the host country, in its capacity as a member of the UN, that is responsible for presenting the (UN) resolution on the Olympic Truce to its national legislative body for approval, and negotiating the adoption of the resolution by other UN Member States.

Another key stakeholder in the adoption and implementation of the Truce is the Athens-based International Olympic Truce Foundation, whose mission is to promote the Olympic ideal as a means of fostering peace, friendship, mutual understanding in the world and the ancient Greek tradition of the Truce, all while seeking to prevent and resolve conflict through sport and culture. In pursuing these aims, it works with specialist non-governmental organisations on research and education programmes and launches Olympic Truce communication campaigns.

Also playing a key role in the process are the host city's local, regional and national governments, their city council, the country's National Olympic Committee (NOC) and National Paralympic Committee (NPC), programmes run by the UN's various agencies, other public sectors and partner non-profit and non-governmental organisations.

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Raising awareness

Each host city of the Olympic Games develops its own Olympic Truce programme. As well as inspiring young people, strengthening international relations and getting other governments and countries involved in the Games, such programmes promote equality and sport for all, provide the host city's cultural Olympiad and the Olympic Torch Relay with an appealing and stimulating theme, showcase their role in promoting Olympic values and peace through sport, and, finally, create a positive legacy.

Hence, there is far more to a host city's Olympic Truce programme than simply delivering the Truce Wall (which is signed by all the athletes staying at the Olympic Village), and supporting the UN resolution. The host city uses the Truce to encourage greater public participation. Their awareness campaigns can remind people that, while sport cannot always bring wars to an end, resolve conflict and reduce tension, it can promote the theme of peace by making valuable contributions at a national and local level.

There are many examples of the Olympic Truce being put into useful practice by host countries. For the Olympic Summer Games Beijing 2008, the children of 210 schools contacted the 205 NOCs and the 159 NPCs and established links with schools in each country, with a number of student exchange programmes being set up in the fields of culture, sport and education.

In being named patron of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Truce, Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General of Canada, pledged to launch peace-themed national youth awareness initiatives and activities. The country's indigenous communities were also welcomed into the process, with Canada's First Nations having the honour of welcoming the world at the Opening Ceremony.

The London 2012 "Get Set for the Olympic Truce" programme took education as its theme.  Posters, public presentations and a host of activities and films were laid on for 24,000 schools nationwide (80% of the total number of schools in the UK), all with the aim of introducing the concept of the Olympic Truce to young people. As part of the programme, youngsters were also encouraged to engage in debates and discussions and create projects promoting peace and conflict resolution in their respective communities.

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The Olympic Village: a hub for global harmony

A focal point of the lead-up to every Games, the Olympic Torch Relay traditionally reflects the very same themes. Turin 2006 was a case in point, with the Olympic Truce being made an integral part of the Olympic Torch Relay thanks to a series of conferences and the support given to the humanitarian activities engaged in by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

By playing host to athletes from all around the world during the Games, the Olympic Village also reflects the values of the Truce. No other place on the planet can rival the ability of the Village to bring people together in a spirit of peace and togetherness. 

Renewed every two years by the UN and the IOC, the Olympic Truce is a concept that is turned into concrete action by countries, regions and host cities and by the world's athletes, who compete against each other, join together in peace and spread the word about the Olympic ideal.

Though the Olympic Truce does not stop wars, it does have a vital contribution to make in aiding understanding, lowering tension and resolving conflict, all for the benefit of humanity.

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