“Today I am in Sochi to witness countries uniting in a spirit of friendly competition and goodwill,” he said on the final day before the Games’ Opening Ceremony. It was the first time that a UN Secretary-General had attended an IOC Session.
Ban Ki-moon praised the joint efforts of the UN and the IOC to use sport as a tool for social change, describing the two organisations as teammates.
“That team – the United Nations and the IOC – are not competing on the ski slopes or skating rinks,” he said. “We are joining our forces together for our shared ideals. Sustainability. Universality. Solidarity. Non-discrimination. The fundamental equality of all people.”
Ban Ki-moon renewed his call for all warring parties worldwide to observe the Olympic Truce and “to lay down their weapons during the Games – and to lift their sights to the promise of peace. He urged others to follow the example set by the Olympic Winter Games.
“The athletes here carry the flags of different nations – but they are all joining under the banner of equality, fair play, understanding and mutual respect,” he said. “Their histories, traditions and day-to-day lives offer a wonderful parade of human diversity. And the athletes send a unified message that people and nations can put aside their differences. If they can do that in Sochi’s sporting arenas, leaders of fighters should do the same in the world’s combat areas.”
Ban Ki-moon also referred to the IOC’s observer status at the UN and the many joint projects in the field and concluded: “The United Nations will continue to partner with the IOC to build a better, freer and more equal world. I count on your engagement and your support. Let us work together to make this world better for all,” receiving enthusiastic applause from the IOC members.
Responding to the Secretary-General’s remarks, IOC President Thomas Bach called Ban Ki-moon “a great friend of sport and an inspiring world leader who stands for the same values the IOC is embracing.”
Bach added, “Sport is standing for respect and against any form of discrimination. In this respect we are teammates, and as you said, ‘Olympic principles are United Nations principles’.”
After his speech to the Session, Ban Ki-moon attended the Session’s debate about the IOC’s role in society and, just a few hours before he was scheduled to run with Bach in the Olympic Torch Relay in Sochi, the UN Secretary-General received a torch from the IOC President.
Ban Ki-moon will also take the opportunity to tour the Olympic Village, where he will sign the Olympic Truce Wall; and later attend the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games on 7 February.
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