SYMBOLISM OF THE OLYMPIC TRUCE:
LETTER TO JUAN ANTONIO SAMARANCH, PRESIDENT OF THE I.O.C.


[NOTE: The following is a revision of a letter that was sent to the IOC President in 1996. Except for a minor addition and changes in wording, it is identical to the earlier letter of which all copies have been lost. This revision was never sent.]




Juan Antonio Samaranch
President
International Olympic Committee
Lausanne
Switzerland

Dear Sir:

I am writing to commend the efforts of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to revive the Olympic Truce in the interest of contributing to international understanding and the maintenance of peace, and to offer new ideas concerning the symbolism of the Olympic Truce in the modern world.

Your efforts to promote the Truce helped to effect the United Nations resolution of 1993 as well as the resolution of 1995 that called upon Member States to reaffirm the observance of the Olympic Truce in advance of each Summer and Winter Olympic Games. These events helped make possible the diplomatic activity that resulted in the suspension of hostilities during the Olympic Games and allowed the supply of aid to populations suffering from the deprivations brought about by armed conflicts. Of particular note are your personal efforts to bring peace and revive hope in the war-torn city of Sarajevo during the 1994 Olympic Winter Games and the efforts of the UN Secretary General to ease tensions in the Persian Gulf during the 1998 Olympic Winter Games.

No doubt these developments in world affairs will serve as an incentive for the IOC to undertake further initiatives in pursuit of its goal to promote “international understanding, particularly among the youth of the world, through sport and culture in order to advance the harmonious development of humankind.” I am aware that there is ongoing discussion on how the Olympic Truce can redefine the Olympic Games and revive some of the idealistic spirit lost due to a drift towards commercialization.

Towards this end, I wish to take this opportunity to offer ideas that concern the observance of the Olympic Truce. Until now, I have kept these ideas to myself but the events mentioned above have convinced me that the Olympic Movement will be more receptive to these ideas than in years past.

SYMBOLS OF OLYMPISM

Since the revival of the Olympic Games in 1896, the Olympic Movement has accumulated a set of symbols that are clearly 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 historic relevance of the Olympic Games. But they can also serve to unite the world and acknowledge the historic relevance of the Olympic Truce. Symbol, a Greek word which means “to throw together,” can be effective as a bridge, a bridge between two realities, or in this case, between actuality and the ideal, what is and what ought to be. I believe that if the IOC were to extend the use of the symbols of Olympism on a worldwide scale in novel ways that would enable them to be readily associated with an international truce, this would work to build a bridge between the present world of strife and conflict and the Olympic Ideal of a world at peace.

SYMBOLS OF EKECHEIRIA:
THE OLYMPIC FLAG AND THE OLYMPIC FLAME

These symbols of Olympism in their current use 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 it the responsibility of the organizers of the Olympic Games. It 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 symbols of the Truce be utilized by the sovereign entities responsible for the Truce if the symbolism is to be optimally effective. Doing so would solidify the Truce because it would allow the symbols of the Truce to more effectively make present for the international community the reality to which they point, that reality being the Olympic Ideal, a world at peace and a global community concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

To be more specific I suggest the following:

First, I suggest that the Olympic Movement give the Olympic flag and the Olympic flame a much wider scope in their use to provide an opportunity for the members of the international community to express their support and observance of the Truce through these two symbols of Olympism.

Second, I suggest that the IOC promote the display of the Olympic flag around the world for the period of the Truce and that the IOC promote the lighting of the Olympic flame around the world for the period of the Games by sanctioning the use of these two symbols of Olympism by the national governments of those countries that are affiliated with the Olympic Movement and have chosen to observe the Olympic Truce.

Third, in view of the fact that the IOC currently sanctions the use of Olympic symbols for commercial purposes in accordance with articles in the Charter, I suggest that new articles be added to the Charter that would govern the use of the Olympic flag and the Olympic flame as symbols of a nation’s observance of the Truce. The new articles would specify the prerequisites to use of the Olympic flag and the Olympic flame that must be met by the governments of countries as well as the responsibilities of the IOC.

Finally, I suggest that those countries that do observe the Olympic Truce receive some kind of recognition at the Olympic Games.

In closing, I will say that
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 expressed here can work to provide a bridge to a reality that the international community can enter into and participate. This would enable the Olympic flag and the Olympic flame to further strengthen Ekecheiria and help achieve the ancient premise and the modern promise of Olympism: peace through sport.

With best wishes for your efforts to promote the cause of peace and unite all nations through noble competition.


Respectfully,

William Brahms









William Brahms
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