SPORTS

Make sports, not war: IOC signs document for the Olympic Truce

Prague (Combined reports) – The Olympic Truce was officially launched yesterday with participants at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) session signing the document. The initiative aims to halt wars during the 16 days of the Games. It harks back to the ceasefire between warring city-states during the Games in ancient Greece. «Wars in the world won’t stop overnight, but if we can stop them for 16 days, then maybe we can do it forever,» Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said. Former South African President Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan are among more than 250 leaders who have already signed the document. Former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch helped rekindle the idea of an Olympic truce a decade ago, when wars ravaged the Balkans. The appeal for an Olympic Truce helped allow the participation of athletes from the former Yugoslav republics in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. During the session, Athens 2004, the Games organizers, presented a progress report on preparations. Construction work is under way 24 hours a day to get Athens ready for next year’s Olympics. Denis Oswald, head of the evaluation commission for the 2004 Games, told reporters that work was progressing at speed. «Things are really progressing well, although there is still a lot to do,» the Swiss IOC member said. «There is work going on everywhere. They are working with two and three shifts a day – sometimes 24 hours a day on projects to catch up or at least to stick to their timetables.» Oswald said the archaeological problems constructors had faced were now in the past. «All the work in the ground has been done so that… there should be no more hold-ups on that count.» Preparations in Athens have improved greatly after a blunt IOC reprimand earlier in the year. Oswald said the reprimand had helped. «From time to time you have to give a pretty strong warning,» he said. (Reuters, AFP)