IOC President Thomas Bach has highlighted the central importance of political neutrality for the Olympic Games to achieve their overarching goal to bring the world together in peaceful competition. Speaking at the Swiss Forum for International Affairs in Geneva, Switzerland, he cited the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 as the most recent example of the IOC’s commitment to strict political neutrality.
In his speech, President Bach described the process of negotiating the political tensions on the Korean Peninsula leading up to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. During the most difficult moments of political tension and at times even possible military confrontation, the IOC was faced with the fundamental question of whether the Games should take place at all on the Korean Peninsula. “At this moment, it became even more important to promote a solution grounded in our principles of political neutrality, dialogue and diplomacy,” Bach told an audience of diplomats and representatives from international organisations, academia and the private sector.
He pointed out that the IOC took the initiative already in 2014 to address the special political situation of having Olympic Winter Games on the Korean Peninsula. In addition to initiating talks at the highest level of government with different partners, the IOC also started a special programme for athletes from the DPRK to support them in the qualification process for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.It became even more important to promote a solution grounded in our principles of political neutrality, dialogue and diplomacy.Thomas Bach IOC President
The IOC initiatives finally resulted in the athletes from the NOCs of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea marching together as one team, behind one Korean Unification flag, at the Opening Ceremony and sending an important message of peace to the world. “We were happy and proud to see our efforts become reality. But if I am honest, we were also much relieved because until the very last moment, we could not be sure that we would succeed,” said Bach, highlighting the fact that the negotiations were only finalised four hours before the start of the Opening Ceremony.
We were happy and proud to see our efforts become reality. But if I am honest, we were also much relieved because until the very last moment, we could not be sure that we would succeed.Thomas Bach IOC President
It was the IOC’s strict commitment to political neutrality and to the mission of the Olympic Games that ultimately led to the positive result. President Bach said that he was happy to see that the governments are using the momentum from the Olympic Games to now start discussions on the political level and expressed his hope that this will lead to a peaceful future on the Korean Peninsula.