UN General Assembly President after carrying Olympic torch: “The Olympics represent humanity at its best.”

The Olympic Torch Relay headed towards the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 today with help of United Nations (UN) General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid and WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

IOC President Thomas Bach with the President of UN General Assembly Abdulla Shahid IOC/Greg Martin

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, Olympic champion in fencing, passed the flame to the General Assembly President after receiving it from Chinese IOC member and Olympic champion in speed skating, Zhang Hong.

After carrying the torch, Mr Shahid compared the work of the UN to the role of the IOC and the Olympic Games in promoting peace.

He said: “The Olympics represent humanity at its best - the best of the coming together to compete graciously, to accept winning with humility and defeat with graciousness. That is what the event is about. And that is what the Olympic flame represents. And as the UN President of the General Assembly, I was privileged today to have that honour.”

He added: “We represent peace. The United Nations, the Charter of the United Nations, was established, was declared, to maintain international peace and security to avoid war and destruction. The IOC maintains and provides the platform for people of all nations, irrespective of their beliefs - political, religious, ethnic - any of these differences. And that platform provides the best opportunity for peace.”

M. Shahid went on to say that, by coming together in harmony, Olympic athletes from around the world advance the cause of peace through their interactions.

“They do wear tracksuits, but they are the diplomats,” he said. “We want the young, the energetic women and men coming together, interacting with each other and providing the energy that we so badly need for promotion of peace.”

After running with the torch, the UN General Assembly President tweeted: “The Olympic flame is a symbol of tolerance, solidarity and hope. I was honoured to join the Olympic Torch Relay for the Olympic Winter Games. I call on everyone to come together to cherish the Olympic ideals of friendship, respect and excellence.”

IOC President Bach, who has often carried the torch, said today’s experience generated many emotions, in part because his role came so near to the official start of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022: “As the General Assembly President just expressed, the Olympic torch and the Olympic flame are symbols of peace and understanding. This is why it gives so many emotions.”

Mr Shahid, a veteran diplomat from the Maldives, assumed his leadership role at the UN last year. Earlier this year, he made a solemn appeal to the UN Member States in the General Assembly for the observance of the Olympic Truce for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, following the resolution adopted in December. The resolution calls for the Olympic Truce to be respected from 28 January to 20 March 2022 -– seven days before the start of the Olympic Winter Games until seven days after the Paralympic Games.

Addressing the General Assembly, Mr Shahid said: “As President of the General Assembly at its 76th Session, I solemnly appeal to all Member States to demonstrate their commitment to the Olympic Truce for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 and to undertake concrete actions at the local, national, regional and world levels to promote and strengthen a culture of peace and harmony based on the spirit of the Truce. Referring to the original tradition of the Olympic Truce practised in ancient times, as described in resolution 76/13, I also call upon all warring parties of current armed conflicts around the world to boldly agree to true mutual ceasefires for the duration of the Olympic Truce, thus providing an opportunity to settle disputes peacefully.”

IOC President Thomas Bach during the torch relay ahead of BEIJING 2022, the XXIV IOC Olympic Winter Games.   Pictured with Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. IOC/Greg Martin

Also running with the Olympic torch today was WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. When asked about this experience, he said: “It was a feeling of hope. The Olympics are about, hope, solidarity, unity and peace. Especially hope to end this pandemic.”

He went on: “I hope we will achieve the 70 per cent vaccination in each and every country around the world by mid this year, and hope the acute phase of the pandemic will be over, so that people will come together like always. Today, if it was not for the pandemic, we would have seen spectators while we were running with the torch, people cheering. I hope the acute phase of the pandemic will be over this year and we will go back to having people coming together and cheering.”

The Olympic flame travelled through all three Olympic competition zones in Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou on its way to the Opening Ceremony. The Olympic Torch Relay was welcomed with enthusiasm throughout its route, which was shortened this year as part of the countermeasures against COVID-19.

About 1,200 people, ranging in age from 14 to 86, participated in the Olympic Torch Relay. In addition to Olympians and other prominent individuals, the torchbearers included frontline healthcare workers, teachers, students and others from various background. The Olympic torch also visited the Great Wall, the Summer Palace and other notable sites on its way to the grand finale cauldron-lighting.

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