In Olympic first, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses Sochi Olympics: “use sport for social change, equality”

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In an Olympic first, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today addressed the International Olympic Committee Session in advance of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

“Today I am in Sochi to witness countries uniting in a spirit of friendly competition and goodwill,” he said on the final day before the Games’ Opening Ceremony.

It was the first time that a UN Secretary-General had attended an IOC Session, according to IOC’s press release.

Ban Ki-moon praised the joint efforts of the UN and the IOC to use sport as a tool for social change, describing the two organizations as teammates.
“That team – the United Nations and the IOC – are not competing on the ski slopes or skating rinks,” he said in the press release. “We are joining our forces together for our shared ideals. Sustainability. Universality. Solidarity. Non-discrimination. The fundamental equality of all people.”

Ban Ki-moon renewed his call for all warring parties worldwide to observe the Olympic Truce and “to lay down their weapons during the Games – and to lift their sights to the promise of peace.” He urged others to follow the example set by the Olympic Winter Games.

“The athletes here carry the flags of different nations – but they are all joining under the banner of equality, fair play, understanding and mutual respect,” he said. “Their histories, traditions and day-to-day lives offer a wonderful parade of human diversity. And the athletes send a unified message that people and nations can put aside their differences. If they can do that in Sochi’s sporting arenas, leaders of fighters should do the same in the world’s combat areas.”

Responding to the Secretary-General’s remarks, IOC President Thomas Bach called Ban Ki-moon “a great friend of sport and an inspiring world leader who stands for the same values the IOC is embracing.”

Bach added, “Sport is standing for respect and against any form of discrimination. In this respect we are teammates, and as you said, ‘Olympic principles are United Nations principles’.”

Truce Wall

Ban Ki-moon will tour the Olympic Village, where he will sign the Olympic Truce Wall.The Olympic Truce Wall has been a fixture in Olympic Villages since the Sydney 2000 Olympics, according to the Olympics official website: “The tradition of the Olympic Truce, or ‘Ekecheiria,’ dates back to the 9th century BC in Ancient Greece as a period during which war and conflict were halted to allow for safe travel to and from the ancient Olympic Games. Today, the Olympic Truce represents the IOC’s aim to inspire peace through sport.”

Ban Ki-moon will later attend the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games Feb.7.

(Above) Athletes and officials in the Olympic Village are invited to show their support for the Truce by signing the wall. Photo: IOC