In 776 BC, myth has it that King Ifitos of Elis was advised by the oracle of Delphi to break the cycle of conflict between states every four years by replacing war with friendly athletic competition. Ifitos proposed a truce called 'Ekecheria' and organised the first Olympic Games at Olympia. Fighting ceased for seven days before and after the Games and the Olympic Truce was born.
In October 1993 the 36th plenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which committed member states to promoting an Olympic Truce at the 1994 winter Games, which resulted in a truce in war torn Sarajevo. Similar resolutions have been passed at subsequent summer and winter Games but sadly they have not produced much in the way of tangible outcomes. In 2000 the International Olympic Committee established the Olympic Truce Foundation (www.olympictruce.org) with the goal of reviving the ancient tradition of the Truce, but to date, these UN resolutions have achieved little.
In October 2011 the UK government, as host nation of the 2012 Games, proposed the Olympic Truce resolution at the General Assembly. Prompted by the Conservative peer, Lord Bates, Prime Minister David Cameron has committed the government to promoting initiatives to implement the truce. Lord Bates is walking nearly 4000 miles (from ancient Olympia to London) in the hope that all the signatories to the Truce can be persuaded to do at least one thing to implement it. Individuals who want to support this campaign can go to www.walkfortruce.org.
If we are to make the most of this opportunity we need to be taking action now to promote peacemaking in conflict areas around the world. In October 2010 this issue was debated in the House of Lords where our then-Chairman, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, proposed that these objectives would be best promoted by putting more resources into conflict prevention to foster not just a truce but a lasting peace. Other organisations in the UK are also supporting these objectives, including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster with its campaign for 'Building Peace with the 2012 Games'.
At the 2011UNA-UK Policy Conference the Association's membership agreed to urge the government to commit more resources to peace building and conflict prevention and encouraged UNA-UK members to promote the Truce. If it is to make a difference. the Olympic Truce needs to be championed by international bodies, governments and ordinary people all over the world. UNA-UK is also promoting a number of events with the Olympic Truce as a theme, including a national Model UN Schools Programme, which has been recognised by the official London 2012 Games Inspire programme. UNA Westminster branch is also planning events at Alexandra Place and Central Hall Westminster in July next year.
I urge all UNA-UK members to lobby their MPs for government action and to encourage support for these events in the hope that we can create a legacy for the 2012 Games that we can be really proud of.
Trevor Evans is a UNA-UK Board member, the Chair of UNA Eastern Region Council and the Chair of Harpenden branch UNA.