Britain sets Olympic record for UN resolution

17th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

More than 280 days ahead of the start of the London Games, Britain scored an early Olympic record by lining up 193 countries, including a few arch-foes, behind the traditional UN call for an Olympic truce.

Syria and Iran were the last of the UN's 193 member states to reply to British diplomats just before Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London organizing committee, put the resolution to the UN General Assembly.

Greece had held the previous record when it got 191 states behind its call for a 16-day truce ahead of the Athens Games in 2004.

Britain's UN diplomats spent three weeks signing up the UN fold behind the resolution, often having to make calls through intermediaries to reach the ministers of small Pacific and African nations with no UN mission.

Coe told the General Assembly that the "extraordinary level" of backing for the Olympic Truce resolution "is a sign of hope and support for the timeless values symbolized by the Truce and by the Olympic Movement."

"It would be folly to suggest that sport provides a complete answer, a panacea for all our social ills," said Coe in presenting the resolution.

"But it can and does help to mend broken communities, rebuild trust, rediscover self-respect, and foster the values at the core of our common humanity."

The former Olympic runner highlighted the example of black American sprinter Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics as one of the "powerful examples of sport breaking through man-made barriers of ignorance and hate."

Coe competed at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, when there had been a US call for a boycott over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He said Games had helped "to foster understanding, and create and extend new networks of friendship, association, and opportunity across ideological and geographic divides."

The decision of North and South Korean athletes to march together into the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 "demonstrated the power of sport to bring people together... in a way that politicians alone could not," Coe added.

"Sport is one of those forces which can still offer real hope -- both collective and individual. It has many roles - often the quiet, deft diplomat, the hidden peacemaker, if you like."

The British resolution put special emphasis on the role of disabled athletes and the Paralympics which will follow the Olympic Games that start on July 27 next year. "The passion and determination of Paralympic athletes is an inspiration to us all."

© 2011 AFP

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