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Olympic Peace? Not in our time

The United Nations has joined the British Houses of Parliament in fantasising about an outbreak of peace during the Olympic Games. In his speech, full of the usual Olympic flatulence, in which he proposed the motion which was agreed by every member nation, LoCoe claimed: "the extraordinary level of cosponsorship ... is a testament to the relevance of the truce and the Olympic Games in a time of global challenges." In fact the Resolution made no mention of any conflicts or any particular action to prevent war. The very fact that everybody felt able to sign it is probably an indication of its meaninglessness.

He then went on about sport's capacity "to foster understanding, and create and extend new networks of friendship, association, and opportunity across ideological and geographic divides." No doubt he was thinking, among many other examples, of the 1969 El Salvador/Honduras Football War which was sparked by riots at the 1970 World Cup Qualifying matches between the two countries, the bitter sectarian rivalry between Rangers and Celtic football clubs and the use of sports events by governments of different colours to further their national or ideological goals, such as the boycotts at Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984, when the Americans and the Russians and their various allies refused to turn up even as he was winning his two sets of Olympic medals.

A brief historical analysis would reveal that the original Olympic truce had nothing to do with preventing war, but was designed to ensure the security of the site of the Games and the safety of participants as they passed through possibly warring territories, as the Games were a sacred event and not merely a sporting competition. Translated to modern times this would mean states agreeing not to attack athletes and officials on their way to and from the Games and not to attack London, or at least Stratford and other Games locations while the Games were on. The rest is fair game.

Henry Bellingham, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who is responsible for the UN and Conflict Resolution, said: "For many people in Britain the idea of truce and sport is epitomised by the grainy black and white pictures of British and German soldiers playing football in the no man's land of Flanders during World War One."

After which, of course, they went back to killing one another in very large numbers.

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