Pledges made in support of the modern Olympic truce

Thirteen representatives of different arenas of Greek culture signed on yesterday as «ambassadors of an Olympic truce» in a ceremony at the Athens Concert Hall. The 13 – Helene Ahrweiler, former rector of the Sorbonne, film director Theo Angelopoulos, film director Jules Dassin, stage designer Dionyssis Fotopoulos, composer Eleni Karaindrou, violinist Leonidas Kavakos, painter Jannis Kounellis, composer Thanos Mikroutsikos, singer Nana Mouskouri, choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou, pianist Dimitris Sgouros, the sculptor Takis and composer Mikis Theodorakis – pledged their support to promote the idea of the Olympic Truce, inherited from the ancient Olympics, in Greece and throughout the world. The guest of honor, former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, also signed on. He was not there as a representative of culture, but, as Foreign Minister George Papandreou said, «as a symbol of the dialogue among civilization and… of the faith in humankind and its possibilities.» The event, attended by many public figures from politics, the arts and sports, turned into a celebration of Mandela, who certainly deserves it, although the praise too often turned into embarrassing hyperbole. His arrival was greeted by a standing ovation, even, or especially by those who, a few days ago, didn’t know he had been president of his country, or those who, a few years ago, may have looked upon him and his movement with open hostility. One could not help but see the irony in Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, head of the Athens 2004 organizers of the Olympics and a former right-wing politician, praising both Mandela and Theodorakis, who «created more while imprisoned than many free men during their lifetime.» Mandela and Theodorakis had both been imprisoned, under different circumstances and for different durations, as left-wingers. Perhaps political boundaries have fallen after all. The Olympic truce is a laudable goal, but one very difficult to attain, given the conflicts raging around the globe. In ancient Greece, a truce was called to provide safe passage to the Olympic Games of participants and spectators. Although faithfully observed, it was otherwise totally ineffective in preventing conflict among the Greeks. Making the case for the optimists, Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis, director of the International Olympic Truce Center, said that «if we can achieve peace in the world for 16 days, perhaps we will be able to achieve lasting peace.»The International Olympic Committee first adopted the call for a truce in 1992. In 1994, during the Winter Games, it brokered a one-day truce in Sarajevo, where UN bodies and NGOs provided help for those in need. The International Olympic Truce Foundation and the Center were both founded in 1999. Ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics, the Olympic truce will be promoted by an unprecedented world tour of the Olympic flame, which will visit 60 countries on five continents.

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