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There is no peace without solidarity

There is no peace without solidarity
IOC President Thomas Bach (Laurent Gillieron/Pool via REUTERS)

The motto of International Day of Peace this year, “End Racism. Building Peace”, is of particular importance to the IOC and the Olympic Movement.

The basic idea of Olympic Games is to unite the entire world in peaceful competition. Peace is at the center of this mission.

At the Olympic Games, athletes carry out this mission of peace when they put aside the differences that divide the world. They compete fiercely among themselves to achieve victory, while peacefully living together under the same roof in the Olympic Village. This makes the Olympic Games a powerful symbol of peace.

But peace is much more than putting aside differences. It is about creating a better world where everyone can prosper, where people are treated equally and where racism and all forms of discrimination have no place.

Pierre de Coubertin revived the Olympic Games to contribute to peace through sport. He said: “We will not have peace until the prejudices that now separate the different races are overcome.”

Non-discrimination is in the DNA of the IOC and the Olympic Games. At the Games, everyone is equal, regardless of race, social origin, gender, sexual orientation, or political beliefs. The principle of non-discrimination is enshrined in the Olympic Charter. Athletes exhibit this principle during the Olympic Games and inspire thousands of people around the world.

Non-discrimination is not enough to build lasting peace. It is not enough to respect each other, but you have to go further and support each other. We have to be united and supportive. There is no peace without solidarity.

Solidarity is the essence of the Olympic Games. That is why the IOC redistributes 90% of all its income to support athletes and the development of sport around the world.

The IOC, driven by our commitment to solidarity, created the first Refugee Olympic Team in history for the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 and one for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. For the first time in Olympic Games history, refugee athletes competed side by side with teams from every other NOC, sending a message of hope and inclusion to all refugees around the world. With no national team to belong to, no flag to parade behind, no anthem to sing and no home to call their own, we welcomed refugee athletes to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and anthem. We gave them a home in the Olympic Village. The Olympic message from this emotional moment was: they are our partners and they enrich our Olympic community.

The IOC refugee team at the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony (REUTERS / Mike Blake)

Today we join in solidarity with the Ukrainian Olympic community. Everything that is applicable to Ukraine is also applicable to other members of our Olympic community.. We are a global organization. That’s why we support the Olympic communities in Afghanistan, Yemen and so many other places affected by war and conflict around the world.

These solidarity initiatives are also at the core of our commitment to achieving a better understanding between people. In this way, the IOC has built bridges through sport and opened the door to better understanding, peace and reconciliation. This has happened in recent years in many conflict situations, such as in North and South Korea, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Kosovo, Israel, Palestine, Iran and many others.

The mission of peace and solidarity is more important than ever at a time when humanity is simultaneously facing so many existential crises.

The Olympic Games cannot prevent wars or conflicts. They cannot address all the political and social challenges of our world. But they can be an example for a world where everyone respects the same rules and each other.

A new world is being created. We can already see today that this new world will be more divisive than the current one.

This unfortunate trend runs completely counter to our Olympic mission of uniting the world in peaceful competition. We know that in these times of division and confrontation, we are not the only ones seeking a common bond of humanity. Millions of people around the world yearn for peace. Together with all these people of good will, we want to make our modest contribution to peace, by uniting the entire world in peaceful competition.

To further commit ourselves to this unifying mission of peace, we have recently changed our Olympic motto to: “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”.

The word “together” highlights the fact that in order to overcome challenges, whether as individuals, as a community, or as humanity, we must stand together.

On the occasion of this International Day of Peace and in this Olympic spirit of solidarity and peace, I strongly reiterate the appeal to all political leaders of the world that I made at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, before a global audience of hundreds of millions of people: “Give peace a chance”.

* Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee

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