Running for an Olympic truce

Greece wants to make the Olympic Truce a household word by the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the foreign minister said yesterday. With a motto of «On your marks, ready – ceasefire,» the truce aims for a cessation of hostilities around the world during the 16 days of the Olympic Games. The concept was inspired by ancient Greece, when warring parties suspended conflicts during the Olympics to allow warriors to rest and participate in the Games. «The goal exactly is that every time there are Olympics, this principle will be respected more and more,» said Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who is vice president of the International Olympic Truce Center. The center was founded under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee and has offices in Athens and Lausanne, Switzerland. It is headed by IOC President Jacques Rogge. «Of course this is a difficult case, many call it romantic,» Papandreou said. «The vision is as necessary as being a realist is. Both are necessary, but one without the other is in the end worthless.» Papandreou announced the beginning of an international publicity campaign to coincide with the Salt Lake City Winter Games. The foreign minister will be among Greek officials representing the Athens 2004 Games at Salt Lake. «The hope is that people will start talking about the truce,» said Stavros Lambrinides, the general director of the truce center. The United Nations General Assembly has asked all countries to observe a truce during next month’s Winter Games. The Bush administration supported a UN resolution for an Olympic truce, but ruled out any military ceasefire in Afghanistan. European Union foreign ministers and some athletes have signed the Olympic Truce book, pledging to spread the word. First to sign were Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem. Regional rivals Greece and Turkey have come to the brink of war three times in the past 28 years. With signatures being collected for the Salt Lake Games, «essentially we are signing on… ambassadors of the truce all over the world,» Papandreou said. President Costis Stephanopoulos is sending letters to India and Pakistan asking them to participate in the truce, while similar letters will be sent to Israeli and Palestinian officials, Papandreou said. «We call on all at an international level to uphold this truce,» said Papandreou. The ancient Olympics were held in Olympia from 776 BC to AD 394, when the Roman Emperor Theodosius abolished them after Christianity took root and he deemed the Games pagan. The modern Games were revived in Athens in 1896.

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