Rio 2016: a chance for the global community to act
The traditional Olympic Truce, the sacred historical pause when nations around the world observe a period of peace, has begun. From 5th to 21st August the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will create a window of opportunity to inspire and motivate the global community to act for peace.
During those 17 days, sport and its values take first place. The eyes of the world will be on Rio de Janeiro. From Paris to Tokyo, from Nairobi to Qatar, from the smallest village in Africa to the biggest metropolis in America, the Olympic values will inspire people to overcome their social, cultural, religious and political differences in the quest for common goals and peace.
Rio 2016 comes at a time when the world is experiencing critical challenges: geopolitical tensions, widespread violence and extremist activities that are threatening global stability in all echelons of society. Against this backdrop, Rio 2016 offers the opportunity for a new beginning. It is a perfect moment to use sport as a catalyst in strengthening social ties and networks, and to promote ideals of peace, non-violence and tolerance.
In the past, exemplary athletes had promoted a culture of peace during the Games. We always remember Derartu Tulu from Ethiopia and Elana Meyer from South Africa as an example of solidarity at the Barcelona Games in 1992. One year after the apartheid ended Derartu Tulu, a black athlete, shared a moment of glory hugging a young white woman, Elana Meyer. We also remember South and North Korea marching together behind a unification flag or Tommie Smith and John Carlos who stood with their heads bowed and raised a black-gloved hand to protest against racial discrimination in 1968.
For Rio 2016 athletes, figures from the world of politics, sport, private sector and civil society have the responsibility to use the Games as a platform for mobilizing global action. Olympic competitions and events around it are a perfect occasion to send a clear message that humanity should not be eroded. We could already see amazing peace initiatives taking place in Rio. For example, a new training center launched by the International Volleyball Federation with its key objective of using volleyball as a vehicle to educate and socialize children from low-income families and to promote integration and social inclusion. Also, the unveiling of the Olympic Laurel Award and the presentation of its first-ever recipient, Kipchoge Keino highlight the value of athletes to society beyond sport. In addition, Pedro Yang and Guo Chuan, Champions for Peace, are among those athletes who have been actively promoting the values of the peace through sport movement in Rio.
The participation of the Refugee squad at Olympics sends a global message that today more than ever governments and policy makers have to work together for the wellbeing of the more than 65 million displaced people worldwide. Tegla Loroupe, Champion for Peace and Chef of Mission of the Refugee Olympic Team stated that Rio is a perfect moment “to send a message of peace and resilience to demonstrate that despite war and conflict, the human spirit and the values of sport cannot be destroyed.”
We are currently witnessing the Olympics feeling that is inspiring us to keep working on peace. I believe that an outstretched hand from one participant to another represents even more effort towards peace than countless political speeches. It would a great example seeing athletes from Palestine and Israel or Ukraine and Russia hold hands in a competition.
The values of sport cannot alone resolve each problem, but these values offer a voice to world leaders, organizations and associations to advance peace. More than ever, I am making a wish that more actors will join the peace through sport movement and that the Olympic values will travel to all continents after the Olympic games ends.