IOC President outlines his vision for the partnership between the worlds of sport and politics at the UN General Assembly
Assembly unanimously approves Olympic Truce for Sochi Games
Newly elected International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has outlined his vision of how sport and politics can work together to build a better and more peaceful world. He was speaking at the 68th Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly today, where a resolution was adopted urging all member states to observe the Olympic Truce during the XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, beginning next February.
Speaking at the Session in New York, President Bach emphasised the key role that sport can play in the service of society, by promoting fair play, tolerance and understanding, and by supporting health and education.
He underlined the position of sport as the only human activity where there are “universal laws” and a “global ethic”. And for this reason, he underlined the need to protect the autonomy of sports organisations around the world.
“Regardless of where in the world we practise sport, the rules are the same. They are recognised worldwide. They are based on a common ‘global ethic’ of fair play, tolerance and friendship", he said. For this reason, to apply what he called these “universal laws” politics must respect this sporting autonomy. Sport can hold its international competitions and promote its values only if this autonomy is understood and accepted, he told the Assembly.
President Bach said that the sporting world accepted that this autonomy must be practised “responsibly”, and that sport could never “operate in a law-free environment”. Indeed, sports organisations needed to “justify” their autonomy and demonstrate good governance. He said that the IOC had set a good example in this regard by demanding that the Universal Principles of Good Governance of the Olympic Movement be accepted as a minimum standard at all levels of sport.
In exercising this autonomy, the IOC President stressed that the sports movement must remain politically neutral, but that this did not mean being “apolitical”: “Sport must include political considerations in its decisions. It must consider the political, economic and social implications of its decisions,” he said.
He then called on those in the audience to take back a message to their countries: “In the mutual interest of both sport and politics, please help to protect and strengthen the autonomy of sport.”
The concept of the Olympic Truce was introduced to the modern Olympic Games in 1992, and the UN General Assembly has adopted a similar resolution before every edition of the Games since 1993. But the idea of an Olympic Truce dates back to the 9th century BC, when warring states would suspend hostilities during the Games.
The President added that the Truce was a great example of how the world could work together in partnership. With the Olympic Games, the IOC was able to set an example of global peaceful interaction.
“The Olympic Games, the Olympic athletes and in particular the Olympic Village are a powerful symbol of this,” he said. “They break down the barriers of cultural differences. They serve as an example of mutual respect and non-discrimination.”
He underlined to those present the common principles shared by the IOC and the United Nations, but also pointed out that the values of sport can make a valuable contribution only if autonomy is respected and boycotts in sport are resisted.
“Precisely because many of our principles are the same, it must always be clear in the relationship between sport and politics that the role of sport is always to build bridges. It is never to build walls. Sports stand for dialogue and understanding,” he said, “which transcend all differences. Sport and the Olympic Movement especially understand the global diversity of cultures, societies and life designs as a source of richness. We never accuse or exclude anyone,” he added.
He called for the IOC and the United Nations to stand “side by side” in a partnership which could lead to even more fruitful cooperation, particularly in the areas of education, development, integration and building peace.
The resolution, entitled “Sport for Peace and Development: Building a Peaceful and Better World through Sport and the Olympic Ideal”, was formally submitted to the General Assembly on behalf of the Olympic Movement and the Russian Federation by Dmitry Chernyshenko, President and CEO of the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee.
And the IOC President underlined that the Organising Committee is working with young people all over Russia as well as internationally to draw their attention to peace, tolerance and participation.
Closing his remarks, the President once again underlined the common shared values between the United Nations and the IOC, which was granted observer status by the UN General Assembly in 2009.
“Together with the political authorities, the IOC wishes to set an example for peace and solidarity in the quest for a more humane society,” he said. “Our partnership clearly illustrates that ‘Olympic principles are United Nations principles’.”
The Sochi Olympic Winter Games will take place from 7 to 23 February 2014 and be followed by the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games from 7 to 16 March 2014. The resolution calls for the Olympic Truce to be respected from seven days before the start of the Olympic Games until seven days after the Paralympic Games.