UNITED NATIONS.- Apostolis Zoupaniotis
Athens welcomed the UN General Assembly’s unanimous adoption this week of an “Olympic Truce” for the duration of the Athens 2004 Games, calling it a “major victory of peace”. A government spokesman in the Greek capital called the UN vote approving the Olympic Truce proposal “a major victory for peace, for the spirit of the Olympic Games”.
The UN vote was taken in the presence of International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou.
Out of a total of 191 members (Iraq, although a UN member, is not represented at the General Assembly), the UN ratified resolution A/58/L9 with 190 votes. The resolution foresees calls for a cessation of hostilities on Aug. 13-29, 2004, thereby reviving the Greek idea of ‘Ekecheiria’ (truce), observed during the ancient Olympics.
Speaking at the General Assembly, Foreign Minister Papandreou said Greece, “as host of the 2004 Olympics, has an acute sense of its responsibility to promote the Olympic ideals. We hope, he said, that, next summer, Athens will be a beacon of world peace.
To meet this challenge, we look to all of you for support and guidance. We can be educators by example. So let us reaffirm our commitment to the spirit of peaceful cooperation upon which the Olympics were founded”.
He called on all nations to send a symbolic message from this international body of peace to their citizens and to the younger generations of the world for a peaceful Olympics, and, ultimately, for a more peaceful world.
“Let us prove that this is possible. For while conflicts in the world will not cease overnight, if we could have peace for sixteen days, then maybe – just maybe – we can have it forever”, Mr Papandreou added.
In comments during a reception given in his honour at the UN by Papandreou, IOC President Jacques Rogge expressed his conviction that Greece is adequately preparing for security during the 2004 Games.
”I have faith in the preparations being carried out by the Greek government on the issue of the Olympic Games’ security; I believe it is admirable. We can only express our satisfaction after the end of the Games, but I believe that the event will be completed with success. Regarding heightened press scrutiny of late, Rogge said there are always negative reports before the Olympic Games. “In such cases good news is only no news,” he added.
Replying to a question on the practical implementation of the ‘Olympic Truce’ next August, Rogge said “we shall have again a joint parading by the teams of North and South Korea, and maybe the participation of the two teams as a single one.
“We shall have the participation of the Olympic teams of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. I think that all these are very important developments and, of course, we are continuing to work in cooperation with both the UN and the Greek government to enable results to be even more considerable,” he added.
Cyprus’ Permanent Representative tο the UN Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis has said Cyprus strongly supports the concept of the Olympic Truce, which could be the prelude of a world free of hate, armed conflict and acts of aggression.
Addressing the Plenary meeting of the UN Mavroyiannis congratulated Greece’s Foreign Minister George Papandreou and the President of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge for their efforts in promoting the concept of the Olympic Truce.
Noting that “sport, peace, culture, humanism and respect for universal ethical principles are indeed the quintessential ideals of Olympism”, Mavroyiannis said “Cyprus is proud to have been part of the Olympic ideal since its inception, with Cypriot athletes consistently competing in the Games in Olympia”.
Mavroyiannis also expressed “unreserved support” to the appeal, “as embedded in the UN Millennium Declaration for the observance of the Olympic Truce as a matter of tradition”.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for warring sides in conflicts around the world to observe a truce during next year’s Olympic Games in Athens.
Kofi Annan called the resolution “a powerful message” to parties in dispute around the world. Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York after the Assembly’s vote, Mr Annan said he hoped the warring sides would use the Olympic truce to “stop and reflect…even if it is for 24 hours.”
“I hope that people in all conflict areas – from Iraq to Afghanistan to Liberia to the Congo – will really listen to the message. But it is not just those who are actually fighting. The populations should also work to make demands that they want peace, and that the fighting must stop,” he said.