A PROPOSAL TO THE OLYMPIC MOVEMENT AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY:
THE SYMBOLISM OF THE OLYMPIC TRUCE IN THE MODERN WORLD
THE OLYMPIC FLAG
THE OLYMPIC FLAME
THE OLYMPIC TRUCE HONOR CORPS
SYMBOLS OF A NATION'S OBSERVANCE OF THE OLYMPIC TRUCE
11 June 2003
Mrs. Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki
President of the Board
Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games ATHENS 2004 S.A.
Iolkou 8 & Filikis Eterias
GR-142 34 Nea Ionia
Dear Mrs. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki:
I am writing to you in response to your call for new ideas and comments concerning the celebration of the Olympic Games of the Modern Era. But before I address my purpose for writing, I wish to digress for a moment to mention two things.
First, I wish to commend you for the work you did as President of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games Bid Committee and for the work you are now doing as President of the Organizing Committee. Your efforts to return the Olympic Games to Greece more than a century after their revival in 1896 will help restore some of the ideals that inspired the ancient Games.
Second, I will mention that years ago when I was doing research in the libraries of the Kennedy School and the Belfer Center at Harvard University, I saw you with His Excellency Constantinos Stephanopoulos in the ARCO Forum at the Institute of Politics and recognized you as someone I had met before. This earlier encounter took place quite by accident in the company of several other persons at a restaurant in Boston sometime during or after 1992, the first time I visited New England. If you can recall this occasion, you may remember a fair-haired, blue-eyed individual from the western region of the United States who was visiting friends in Boston; and after your discourse on the best sights, the best food, and the climate in Athens, he described to you and the others a visit to Pike's Peak in Colorado that ended when he was driven off that inhospitable mountain by tornado-like winds, falling tree limbs, a cascade of hailstones, and three bolts of lightning from an angry Zeus.
SYMBOLS OF EKECHEIRIA
Returning to my purpose for writing, although I am not a citizen of Greece and have no Hellenic ancestry, nevertheless, I do wish to respond to your call and contribute ideas concerning the celebration of the Olympic Games of the Modern Era. To be more specific, I will say at the outset that these are ideas that concern the efforts of the Hellenic Republic and others to revive the ancient Greek tradition of Ekecheiria. For many years I kept these ideas to myself, but events subsequent to the publication in 1992 of the Appeal for the Olympic Truce have convinced me that the Olympic Movement will be more receptive to these ideas than in years past.
The proposal to revive the Olympic Truce, during which warring rivals cease hostilities and lay down their arms for the celebration of the Olympic Games, is a noble idea that will redefine the modern Games. Although the notion of such a truce is dismissed by some as a hopelessly romantic idea in the modern world, in a 1993 resolution the United Nations endorsed for the first time the idea of the Olympic Truce, as dedicated in ancient Greece to the spirit of fraternity and understanding between peoples, and urged member states to take the initiative to abide by the Truce, individually and collectively, and to pursue in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations the peaceful settlement of all international conflicts. This resolution helped make possible coordinated diplomatic initiatives that resulted in cease-fire arrangements during the period of the Olympic Games, allowing the supply of aid to populations suffering from the deprivations brought about by armed conflict.
These events show that the Olympic Truce is not a hopelessly romantic idea but a possibility in the modern world. For this reason it deserves the support of all who wish to promote the international understanding and amity among nations needed to advance the harmonious development of mankind. All those like you and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, George A. Papandreou, who work towards this goal deserve to be commended.
Because I now believe the Olympic Movement will be more receptive to my ideas than in years past, I wish to present to the Organizing Committee a proposal regarding the symbolism of the Olympic Truce in the modern world. I am aware that the Athens 2004 Olympic Games Bid Committee made a commitment to revive the Olympic Truce and to promote it around the world through the Olympic torch relay. Its successor, the Organizing Committee, is now developing the most extensive torch relay program for the Olympic Games. For the first time, the Olympic torch will be carried across the earth illuminating the Olympic Ideal of Peace in five continents. Greece's objective to activate the potential of the Olympic Movement to be a factor in international rapprochement and public diplomacy is, as I have said above, a noble idea. Like you, I do hope that this symbol handed from person to person around the world will strengthen and embody the Truce and bring a moment of peace to the world--and years of honor to the Hellenes.
But if it is true that a worldwide truce can be strengthened and embodied by a symbol, then I believe more is needed here than a torch relay. The Olympic flag, the Olympic flame, the Olympic anthem, the Olympic motto, the Olympic oath, and the Olympic torch relay--all of these symbols of Olympism suffice to symbolize the spirit of antiquity that inspires the Olympic Movement. But a worldwide truce is not the responsibility of the Olympic Movement. Nor is a worldwide truce the responsibility of the organizers of the Olympic Games. A worldwide truce is the responsibility of the international community of nations. This is a fact of the Olympic Truce that is obvious to all. This is a truth about the modern world which requires that the symbol of the Olympic Truce be utilized by the sovereign entities responsible for the Truce if the symbolism is to be optimally effective and achieve Greece's objective to activate the potential of the Olympic Movement to be a factor in international rapprochement and public diplomacy. ATHOC's plan to extend the Olympic torch relay through five continents is a novel, creative, and effective use of the torch relay. It is a way to build bonds of hope and bridges across chasms of conflict. Being a symbol, a Greek word meaning "to throw together," it acts as a bridge between two realities, or more specifically in this case, between actuality and the ideal, what is and what ought to be. Nevertheless, an extension of such magnitude through five continents for the purpose of symbolizing a worldwide truce is, I believe, indicative of the need for extending in future Olympiads the use of one or more of the symbols of Olympism beyond the host city and the host country and the torch relay to a utilization with global extent that will strengthen the Truce and firmly establish it as a tradition in the modern world by allowing these symbols of Olympism to make present for the international community the reality to which they point and into which the international community can enter and participate: a world at peace and a global community concerned with the preservation of human dignity, the Olympic Ideal.
Given this need for a worldwide representation of the Truce by symbols that can be utilized by the sovereign entities responsible for a worldwide truce, how can the use of one or more of the symbols of Olympism be extended globally to symbolize the Truce and thereby more effectively mediate to the international community the presence of the Olympic Ideal of Peace?
In answer to this question I offer the following three suggestions:
First, I suggest that in future Olympiads the Olympic Movement go further and build upon ATHOC's ideas for the Olympic torch relay and the Olympic Truce by giving its two best known symbols--the Olympic flag and the Olympic flame--a much wider scope in their use so that the members of the international community can have an opportunity to express their observance or endorsement of the Truce through these two symbols of Olympism. The celebration of the Olympic Games provides a window of opportunity that occurs when the world's attention and goodwill are focused on the Games. This is an opportunity for peace that should be taken advantaged of to the fullest extent. To do so, countries that are at peace should celebrate their peace by endorsing the Olympic Truce and expressing their endorsement around the world with Olympic symbolism during the period of the Truce. This worldwide endorsement and its expression through a worldwide symbolism will provide a greater incentive for those members of the international community who are engaged in conflicts to cease hostilities and observe the Olympic Truce.
Second, I suggest the International Olympic Committee (IOC) extend the use of the Olympic flag and the Olympic flame around the world in a manner that will clearly associate these symbols with a worldwide truce. To be more specific, for those countries affiliated with the Olympic Movement that have chosen to observe or endorse the Olympic Truce, I suggest the IOC sanction the following:
Finally, in addition to the preceding three suggestions I also suggest the following: The Olympic Truce and the countries that observe or endorse it receive some kind of formal recognition at the Olympic Games.
These are ideas I expressed in a letter addressed to Mr. Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the IOC. (This letter can be seen at web site www.williambrahms.com.) I never received a reply to my letter and have concluded that if it ever reached Lausanne (indeed I have reason to believe that it never did) the absence of a response is probably due to its lack of specificity and not a lack of interest, for the former IOC President has been an ardent advocate of the Olympic Truce idea. But in case my correspondence reached Lausanne and failed to arouse much interest due to its lack of specificity, I will for the sake of clarity use the remainder of this letter to make the following enumeration which details the novel use of the Olympic flag and the Olympic flame being proposed here.
A SYMBOL OF EKECHEIRIA
THE OLYMPIC FLAG
A SYMBOL OF EKECHEIRIA
THE OLYMPIC FLAME
A SYMBOL OF EKECHEIRIA
THE OLYMPIC TRUCE HONOR CORPS
Given the global political reality of the modern world, the observance or endorsement of the Olympic Truce will always be subject to the political and military concerns of sovereign entities. In spite of the political concerns that continue to precipitate conflicts, the trend in world affairs has been one towards greater collaboration within the international community with the aim of avoiding the devastation and suffering that issued from the great conflicts of the twentieth century. Such collaboration was unthinkable in centuries past. It is now the reality of the present. In the future, the same may be said of a global Olympic Peace if with each passing Olympiad an ever greater number of countries elect to display the flag and light the flame.
In summary, I will say that the Olympic flag and the Olympic flame are familiar enough in public awareness due to their long association with the Olympic Games and are best suited among the symbols of Olympism to serve the need for a worldwide symbolism of the Olympic Truce. But if the two best known symbols of Olympism are to be utilized to optimally strengthen and embody a worldwide truce, then I believe this will require their use by the members of the international community as I have described in the enumeration above. I will admit that the novel use of the Olympic flame proposed here is a long-term concern that will take many years to implement around the world because of the design, financing, and construction requirements of a National Olympic Memorial. But I will assert that it should not take as many years to see the display of the Olympic flag around the world by the governments of countries that have sent their warriors to carry the flag of truce into the Olympic Games.
In closing, I will mention that since the revival of the Games in 1896, the Olympic Movement has accumulated a set of symbols that are associated with the assembly of the world's great athletes who have gathered together for the cause of peace through noble competition. These are symbols that serve to unite the world and acknowledge the deep and historic relevance of the Olympic Games. These are symbols that can also serve to unite the world and acknowledge the deep and historic relevance of the Olympic Truce. Do not overlook the power of symbols. History has much to say about the role of symbols among individuals, communities, and nations. In ancient times the Sacred Truce was observed for many centuries for it existed and endured as part of a religious tradition that mediated the presence of the divine through statues, altar fires, and temples scattered throughout the ancient Hellenic world. Although these symbols do not speak to moderns as they did to the ancients, the need for symbolism remains; and so does the need to mediate the Olympic Ideal of Peace through symbols scattered throughout the modern world.
Mankind is alone among the creatures of the earth for whom reality is mediated through symbolism and ceremony. If symbols are valued for not only how well they represent and participate in that to which they point but also for how well they provide bridges to levels of reality that are otherwise closed to us, then I believe the ideas proposed here concerning the Olympic flag and the Olympic flame will work well to provide a bridge to the Olympic Ideal which the members of the international community can together enter into and participate. This will allow the Olympic flag and the Olympic flame to strengthen and embody Ekecheiria and help achieve the ancient premise and the modern promise of Olympism: peace through sport.
Finally, I believe that Greece should take the initiative as it did with the revival of the Games in 1896 and bring the ideas proposed here to the Olympic Movement for possible incorporation into the tradition of the Olympic Games of the Modern Era.
With best wishes to you, the Organizing Committee, and to the people of Greece.
Very truly yours,
H.E. George Papandreou, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hellenic Republic of Greece
H.E. Stavros Lambrinidis, International Olympic Truce Center (IOTC)
Count Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Source HTML for this page includes comments with the text of the preliminary draft and
the text of this final draft enclosed within the digital signature of William Brahms and the
digital signature and date stamp of IT Consultancy.