By Robin Gomes
The Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games 2020 are kicking off in Tokyo, Japan, next week, July 23. And on Friday, July 16, a week before the opening ceremony, the Olympic Truce came into force. The Olympic Truce calls for the laying down of arms across the world and for fighting to stop during the period of the Games.
In a video message on the occasion on Friday, United Nations secretary-general António Guterres called on “all parties to conflict to observe the Olympic Truce during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to build on it in the weeks and months ahead”.
The United Nations Truce Resolution for the Olympic and Paralympic was originally passed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2019 after a formal proposal came from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach. The Olympic Truce was due to have come into force last year but was postponed to this year due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Olympic Truce was first observed at the inaugural Olympic Games in 776 BC in ancient Greece, to help secure safe travel to athletes and spectators to and from the Games. Revived by the International Olympic Committee in in 1992 with the support of the United Nations, the Olympic Truce seeks to bring an end to conflict around the world.
Truce for sustainable peace
In his video message, Guterres pointed out that athletes from around the world who are gathering in Tokyo for the event, “have had to overcome enormous obstacles to participated in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic”. He said, “We need to show the same strength and solidarity in our efforts to bring peace to our world.”
In his video message, the UN secretary-general recalled that the Olympic Truce was “a traditional call to silence the guns while the games proceed”. “People and nations can build on this temporary respite to establish lasting ceasefires and find paths towards sustainable peace”. “Seeking peace and uniting around common goals,” Guterres stressed, “is even more important this year, as we strive to end the pandemic and build a strong, sustainable and inclusive global recovery.”
Inauguration of Olympic Truce
Bach proclaimed the start of the Olympic Truce in Hiroshima, Japan, on Friday afternoon, July 16. Joined by Japan’s Olympic and local officials, the IOC chief also laid a wreath in the cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. He spoke about the role of the Olympics to promote global peace, calling the sports event a “beacon of hope for a better and more peaceful future”.
“This peace mission continues to be at the heart of the Olympic Games,” Bach said. “Today, I am here to remember all the people who are commemorated at this very place. I am here to reaffirm our peace mission and to pay our respects to Hiroshima, as a city of peace.”
“It is our hope that the Tokyo 2020 Games will provide an opportunity for the world to hope for peace and to reflect on the importance of peaceful resolution of conflicts,” the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee said in a news release.
The 2020 Summer Olympic Games are scheduled to take place from July 23 to and August 8, and the Paralympic Games from August 24 to September 5. The Olympic Truce that has been declared runs through September 12, seven days after the Paralympics closing ceremony.
2020 Covid ceasefire
Last year on March 23, Guterres had issued a similar appeal for a global ceasefire in all corners of the world to focus together to defeat humanity’s common enemy, the Covid-19 virus. “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” he said.
Pope Francis endorsed the call by the UN secretary-general. Speaking during his midday Angelus prayer on March 29, 2020, he invited everyone “to follow it up by ceasing all forms of hostilities, encouraging the creation of corridors for humanitarian aid, openness to diplomacy, and attention to those who find themselves in situations of vulnerability”.
Covid-19 threat and Olympics
The Tokyo Olympics are being held under unprecedented conditions and tight quarantine and distancing rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infections. A number of cases have emerged involving athletes and other people involved with the Games.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said it was essential to prevent Tokyo, where the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 was spreading, from becoming a flashpoint of new infections.
Meanwhile, Tokyo Olympics organizers on Saturday reported the first case of Covid-9 at the Olympic village, along with 14 other new cases connected to the Games, raising fresh doubts over promises of a "safe and secure" event.