United Nations, Olympic Movement, and Pursuit of Common Ideals

On August 5, 2016, watchers will notice something different as spectators cheer on their national teams as they enter the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Refugee Olympic Team, which will march eloquently behind the Olympic banner, will be exclusive of refugee athletes.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the formation of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team during the seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 to raise awareness of the severity of the global refugee problem. Teams from all 206 National Olympic Committees will compete alongside the Team’s ten athletes. It will stand in for the 65 million refugees who have no place to call home due to turmoil and war. The refugee athletes will demonstrate to the world that anyone can improve society through their talents, skills, and the resilience of the human spirit, despite the unfathomable catastrophes they have experienced. The Team will represent hope for all refugees worldwide and send a message to the international community that refugees are our fellow citizens who contribute to society. In this way, the Refugee Olympic Team represents universal principles of peace, solidarity, and tolerance. It serves as a reminder of the overarching goal of the Olympic Movement, which is to improve society through sport.

The Olympic Refugee Team emphasizes the values shared by the IOC and the UN. The similar ideals of tolerance, solidarity, and peace serve as the same cornerstone upon which both organizations are based. Their shared objective is the peaceful advancement of humanity.

The Olympic Movement is built on these principles. They are founded on the ideas of Olympism as outlined in the Olympic Charter, which was created by Pierre de Coubertin, the man responsible for creating the modern Olympic Games.

Everyone is treated equally in Olympic sports, regardless of background, gender, socioeconomic class, or religious beliefs. Because the Olympic Games adhere to the non-discrimination in sport premise, all people can live in peace and harmony. Sport is one of the few spheres of human activity to have universal law. No matter where we play sports, the regulations are always the same: a 100-meter run is always a 100-meter run, no matter where you are. The guidelines are accepted worldwide because they are founded on universal values like friendship, fair play, and universal respect.

Sport has a unique ability to unite people in our interconnected world. The Olympic Games inspire peaceful international cooperation and offer us hope that a better world is attainable.

The Olympic Village serves as the clearest example of this culture of inclusivity. By sharing their experiences, feelings, and meals in a worldwide village, the athletes come to know and understand one another on a personal level. In addition, they respect greatness, whether it results in success or failure. The Olympic athletes set an example for the globe, demonstrating that it is possible to compete while coexisting in peace.

In this regard, the Olympic Movement and the United Nations share the same objectives and guiding ideologies on how to improve the state of the globe. Both groups’ actions emphasize the significance of universal, egalitarian, anti-discriminatory, and rule-respecting ideals. “Olympic principles are United Nations principles,” as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon succinctly summarises them. The United Nations and IOC are natural allies in pursuing shared ideals due to their shared objectives and guiding principles.

The modern, diverse civilization of today is not complete without sport. Sport contributes significantly to the growth of a peaceful society due to its widespread and worldwide appeal. The collaboration between the United Nations and IOC is built on a shared sense of the importance of sport.

Recognizing the sport’s unique place in today’s society, the IOC approved Olympic Agenda 2020 in 2014. This set of 40 suggestions serves as the strategic road map for the Olympic Movement’s future. The recommendations provide a clear picture of how to safeguard the distinctiveness of the Olympic Games and strengthen the principles of sport in contemporary society. Olympic Agenda 2020 is based on the understanding that sport must use its integrative and unifying force for humanity in a worldwide environment. Olympic Agenda 2020’s suggestions for the IOC entail reaching out to society and actively looking for partners to further our goals. Cooperation is necessary for development in preserving the values of sport and enhancing sport in a community in today’s highly interconnected and interdependent world. Sports must interact with society to benefit humanity. The IOC can play this active role in the globe thanks to Olympic Agenda 2020.

The current strengthening of the relationship between the IOC and the UN results from this reinvigorated feeling of cooperation. The Olympic Truce tradition is arguably the best example of this attitude of collaboration. A sacred truce, known as the ekecheiria, which guaranteed an end to hostilities and permitted safe passage for athletes and spectators to ancient Olympia and back home, served as the cornerstone for the ancient Olympic Games to be held in peace.

The United Nations is carrying on this 3,000-year-old legacy in close collaboration with IOC. The General Assembly has passed an Olympic Truce resolution before each Olympic Games since 1994 in recognition of the symbolic import of the Olympic Truce for the modern world. With the support of more than 180 Member States, the Assembly most recently, on October 26, 2015, adopted resolution 70/4, titled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal.” It calls on nations to observe the Olympic Truce from the seventh day before the start of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics on August 5 to the seventh day after the conclusion of the XV Paralympic Summer Games on September 17.

The relationship between the United Nations and IOC has expanded in many areas outside the Olympic Truce. The memorandum of collaboration that the two groups signed in 2014 were a significant step toward achieving our shared objectives. Even though the General Assembly had already granted the IOC Permanent Observer status in 2009, this historic memorandum of understanding established a formal framework for cooperation in several critical areas where sport may advance social inclusion and economic growth. These include the promotion of good health, women’s and girls’ empowerment, and peacebuilding.

Regarding achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the 2030 Agenda, which will direct social and economic development worldwide over the next 14 years, the sport may support international efforts in tangible ways. Sports may address multiple goals at once due to their cross-cutting nature. Goal 3: Ensure Healthy Lives; Goal 4: Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Education; Goal 5: Achieve Gender Equality; Goal 6: Promote Peaceful and Inclusive Societies; Goal 7: Promote Gender Equality (Goal 16). The IOC supports the Goals and actively assists all nations in their efforts to realize this ambitious plan by cooperating with the National Olympic Committees and via our initiatives.

The support of refugees worldwide is a current topic of collaboration between the UN and IOC. Although IOC and the UNHCR have worked together for more than 20 years to support refugees in numerous camps worldwide, the current refugee crisis has given our organizations a tremendous urgency to send the necessary assistance and knowledge to where it is most needed. Our organizations share a concern about this humanitarian situation, as evidenced by the nomination of IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge as Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Youth Refugees and Sport in 2014. It also emphasizes the widespread belief that sport is crucial for empowering young people from refugee communities. In response to the current refugee crisis, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has established a $2 million special fund to work with National Olympic Committees worldwide to develop sports-based assistance initiatives for refugees. IOC and UNHCR have run the “Giving is Winning” industry since 2004. This international solidarity movement solicits the aid of athletes, Olympic officials, sponsors, National Olympic Committees, and other Olympic Movement participants to support refugees and bring attention to their predicament.

The General Assembly’s announcement of the creation of the Refugee Olympic Team served to underscore once again the common goals of our organizations in finding answers to one of the most urgent problems of our day. IOC and UNHCR collaborated extensively to plan the Team, and UNHCR will serve as the Team’s Deputy chief de Mission. By assisting the Refugee Olympic Team, both organizations are venturing into uncharted territory, but we can draw from our combined experience of more than 20 years of collaboration.

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio are taking place on a fragile planet. The world community is dealing with several difficulties, including the refugee crisis. The virtues of tolerance, unity, and peace are more important than ever. The United Nations and IOC are well positioned to contribute towards a better, more peaceful world as two institutions bound by these shared principles. In these trying times, the Games will deliver a much-needed message of hope. This statement may be the most significant legacy that the Olympic Games will leave for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the world.