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World in need of Olympic spirit

By Chen Haiming | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-01-29 07:49


The international community has been encountering one unprecedented challenge after another since entering the 21st century-from the ecological and environmental crisis, terrorism, regional conflicts and wars to populism, anti-globalization and "clash of civilizations".

Worse, for the past two years people across the world have been battling the COVID-19 pandemic, which is threatening to neutralize many of the achievements humans have made over the past few decades. The novel coronavirus has already infected more than 356 million people and claimed over 5.61 million lives, plunging humankind into the abyss of despair.

To overcome the devastating impacts of the pandemic not only on people's health and life but also on economies and society as a whole, we need a new shot of vitality, along with encouragement and hope, and the Olympic spirit and its values, among a few other things, can give us that much-needed encouragement to intensify our fight against the pandemic in the hope that we will succeed in the end.

It is with the Olympic spirit that the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games will be held from Feb 4 to 20, and the Winter Paralympics from March 4 to 13.

Olympic spirit and its values

The Olympic spirit is embodied in the Olympic motto of "Faster, Higher, Stronger". To this, the International Olympic Committee added "Together" on July 29, 2021, in recognition of the unifying power of sports and the importance of solidarity against the backdrop of the raging pandemic in which the deferred 2020 Summer Olympic Games was held in Tokyo in July-August 2021.

To be sure, the Olympic spirit has always promoted solidarity. Sports is a universal language shared by people across the world. It helps bring humankind together by highlighting our commonalities regardless of our race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, culture and language.

When watching the performances of athletes at the Olympics, we not only appreciate their sportsmanship, but also develop a sense of global community, thereby breaking the barriers dividing humans. While the interlocking Olympic rings symbolize the unity of the five continents, the harmonious atmosphere at the Olympic Village echoes the idea of the people around the world being one big family.

The addition of "Together" to the Olympic motto highlights the important role of the Olympic Games in facilitating solidarity among people and countries around the world, and encourages them to deal with the toughest of challenges facing humanity, including the COVID-19 pandemic, with the hope of succeeding in their efforts.

In addition, the Olympic spirit also contributes to peace. While values such as solidarity, tolerance, and respect for pluralism and cultural diversity lead to peace, the Olympic Games, by bringing people together from across countries and regions, cultures and religions, promotes dialogue and deepens mutual understanding, leading to global peace.

That the Olympics promotes peace is evident in the tradition of Olympic Truce, which dates back to ancient Greece-way back in 9th century BC.

Olympic Truce was declared to provide safe passage for athletes, their families and spectators traveling to the Olympic Games before and during the event. As in the ancient past, Olympic Truce today represents the spirit of peaceful cooperation, because it prompts the participating sides to suspend conflicts, even wars.

In 1999, in order to find "peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the conflicts around the world", the IOC established the International Olympic Truce Foundation and the International Olympic Truce Centre in cooperation with Greece with a view to declare Olympic Truce before every Summer and Winter Games.

In 1993, Olympic Truce was revived through a resolution adopted by the 48th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Since then, the UN General Assembly has been adopting a resolution titled "Building a Peaceful and Better World through Sport and the Olympic Ideal" before every Olympic Games.

Adopting Beijing Winter Olympic Truce Resolution in December, the UN General Assembly called for the observance of Olympic Truce throughout the period from the seventh day before the start of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games until the seventh day following the end of the Winter Paralympic Games. The suspension of conflicts and wars will create a good opportunity for harnessing the power of sports to advance global peace and development.

Games promotes global peace

The Beijing Winter Games will uphold the Olympic spirit and its values by fostering an atmosphere of solidarity, resilience, peace, development, tolerance and understanding which, having been aligned with the UN Charter which calls for maintaining global peace and security, are vital to the international community to contain the pandemic and resolve regional conflicts.

Since China has always attached great importance to harmony in diversity, the Winter Games will highlight solidarity, tolerance and respect for cultural pluralism. Yet despite the pivotal role the Beijing Winter Games is expected to play in promoting the Olympic spirit and, through it, global peace and tolerance, the United States has announced a "diplomatic boycott" of the Games over "China's abuse of human rights". And not surprisingly, some other Western countries have joined the US in this divisive and controversial move.

The "diplomatic boycott", motivated as it is by ideological arrogance, stems from the misinterpretation of the pluralistic connotation of human rights, reflects the Cold War mentality of these countries, and violates the Olympic spirit and the principle of political neutrality enshrined in the Olympic Charter. The move is not only against the spirit of promoting dialogue on human rights, but also undermines the role of the Olympics in promoting global solidarity and cooperation.

IOC President Thomas Bach has put it aptly: "In today's fragile world with so much uncertainty, the Olympic Games are more than ever a powerful symbol of hope, peace and solidarity for all of humanity in all our diversity." Accordingly, the Beijing Winter Games calls for not just Olympic Truce, but also the suspension of all hostilities.

The author is a professor and director of the Center for Global Governance and Law, Xiamen University of Technology.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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