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09 Feb 2015
IOC News

IOC President guest of honour at gala on peace and reconciliation in the Middle East

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach was in Germany on Sunday for a gala evening to support peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

Under the title ‘Reinforcing Co-operation -- a German contribution to the Middle East,’ the IOC President was a guest of honour together with former Queen of the Netherlands Princess Beatrix. Other guests included the Israeli Ambassador to Germany Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, head of the German Central Council of Muslims Aiman Mazyek, Placido Domingo and Daniel Barenboim.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was the keynote speaker at the gala, which was organized to raise funds for a post-graduate educational programme led by the Heinrich Heine University (Germany). Students selected do a preparatory year at their home universities in Palestine (Al-Quds University), Jordan (The Royal Scientific Society), or Israel (Tel Aviv University) before spending a year at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. Studies focus on how Europe built a working peace after centuries of war. The programme is also intended to build links between the students. 

IOC President Bach said: “Strong cooperation and bridge-building are key to progress in the Middle East. Sport and the Olympic Movement have time and again shown their ability to help bring people together around the world where such reconciliation is needed -- and the Middle East is no different. The IOC has been instrumental in bringing the sporting movements of Israel and Palestine together to cooperate. We are helping Palestinian athletes move freely across the region to train and to attend events, but also to ensure that, in line with the Olympic Charter, Israeli athletes are free to take part in all major sporting events. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra provided the perfect backdrop to this evening, consisting as it does of musicians from countries right across the Middle East who can come together to cooperate with such a harmonious outcome.”
The gala in Berlin had special entertainment from the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a youth orchestra consisting of musicians from across the Middle East, including Israel, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. The orchestra was founded in 1999 by the conductor Daniel Barenboim and academic Edward Said.

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