POSTED: February 16th 2012

NEIL WILSON: Games Without Wars - A Truce With Teeth

Lord Michael Bates with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon /  UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferre
Lord Michael Bates with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon / UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferre

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

LONDON: Lord Michael Brown, a former British politician moved upward on retirement to its second chamber, has just completed the first Olympic marathon. No gold medal at the end for him, only blisters after walking 2,800 miles from Olympia in Greece to Olympic Park in East London.

His goal was to bring attention to the Olympic Truce, and the commitment made to it by 193 participating Olympic countries. On his long slog across Europe he made sure to stop at Ministries in 12 countries to bang home his message.

Lord Brown’s point is that when the UN-sponsored Truce is proposed every four year every country is happy to sign up but none think of the consequences.

Did British Prime Minister David Cameron who actually proposed the first resolution for a 2012 Truce realize that it involved calling off all military activity in Afghanistan this year for the periods of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Or did he see it as gesture politics not to be taken seriously.

Did Barack Obama realize he would have to put the brakes on his generals, and did the governments of all other coalition forces in Afghanistan understand that their soldiers would have to sit on their hands for a good part of the summer?

Of course not. They did not give it a thought. Put the country’s name among the signatories and then forget the implications. Lord Brown’s marathon came as a reminder. As he said: “We’ve had your commitment, now we want implementation.”

I remember a Ministerial briefing in Athens in 2003 when the Truce was first mooted. The Greeks know about the need for them because they were what made the Ancient Olympics in Olympia possible, an event, remember, that lasted 1,000 years.

Without a truce between the warring states of Greece, none of the competitors would have been able to travel safely to the competition. Their truces, naturally, had to last for months. Stopping the bloodletting for just 26 days in four years seems small by comparison.

It will not happen though. Cameron congratulated Lord Brown on his endeavor but said nothing of standing down his army in Afghanistan. Any more than the other coalition partners do.

So let’s give the Truce teeth next time. For 2016 the IOC should do its bit for world peace by directing that no nation at war, internally or externally, will be welcome at the Games in Rio. Ban the bombers, as it were. It would certainly concentrate minds wonderfully.

The IOC would stand taller in the world. Olympism would have a novel moral code. The IOC might even get a Nobel Prize for its initiative.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Olympic Truce · IOC · Lord Michael Brown

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