The Secretary-General called the Games a desperately needed antidote to division and hatred, and added: “When we see so many conflicts around the world, we see the absolute relevance of having Olympic Games in which all countries are represented - even, unfortunately, some that are in a war situation - to have them all here and to show that peace is possible, that unity is possible, and that solidarity is possible. This fully justifies the strong commitment of the United Nations to support the International Olympic Committee.”
The UN has long been a strong supporter of the IOC. The ties between the global diplomatic body and the non-profit sports organisation were further strengthened in 2009 when the UN granted the IOC official UN Observer status. Five years later, the IOC and the UN took the relationship to another level with a Memorandum of Understanding that pledged further cooperation and reaffirmed the organisations’ shared values of “contributing to a better and peaceful world through sport”. In 2020, a UN resolution renewed its recognition of the “invaluable contribution of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in establishing sport as a unique means for the promotion of peace and development”.
In another sign of the strength of the relationship, the UN adopts an Olympic Truce resolution in advance of every edition of the Games, calling on all countries to cease hostilities during the Games. The 193 UN members approved this year’s Truce by consensus.
In Beijing, the Secretary-General called the Olympic Truce “the most important and most ancient symbol of the importance of peace”. He stressed the relevance of the Truce and the Games amid the current global tensions.
He said: “I think we need at this moment more than ever the message of unity and solidarity that is the message of the Olympic Games. In a moment when we see so many expressions of populism, so many expressions of racism, so many expressions of xenophobia, antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred, to be here and to be with athletes that come from all cultures, from all countries, from all ethnicities, from all religions, it’s a fantastic message. It’s a message of tolerance, of mutual respect, and a message in which it’s proven that it’s possible to compete loyally and at the same time to fraternise.”
IOC President Thomas Bach and the Secretary-General used their time together in Beijing to explore ideas for more collaboration between their organisations.
“Both the IOC and the UN are about peace, understanding and solidarity,” Bach said. “This has become once more very clear in this meeting.” The IOC President said their discussions included ways “the IOC can make even further contributions to peace and the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”.
The Secretary-General said the Games also send a powerful message that competition can occur without generating conflict:
“This is what is needed in the world. Of course, there is competition in the world, but that competition does not necessarily mean enmity. That competition needs to allow the world to come together and to face the enormous challenges of today: COVID-19, climate change, inequality, all things that require much more unity and solidarity in our world, and the message of these Olympic Games is that message.”
The Secretary-General’s assessment echoed the comments of another Games attendee, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid. He described Olympic athletes as diplomats, and said the Games provide a platform for peace by “showing humanity at its best”.