ATHENS — Greece, which is to host the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, on Friday launched an International Olympic Truce Centre based on an ancient peacemaking ideal.

‘The establishment of the Olympic Truce Centre is motivated by the strong belief that sport and the Olympic ideals can contribute to building a peaceful and better world,’ said International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

In classical Greek times the truce called ‘ekecheiria’ was meant to allow athletes and pilgrims to make it to the Games in ancient Olympia and back home safely.

Greece, which is trying to project a more idealistic Olympic Games in 2004, envisions the modern Truce as an effort to resolve international conflicts.

‘The Olympic Truce is a unique tool for the promotion of peace and mutual understanding … a movement for ceasing any conflict, hostilities and finding peaceful solutions during the Olympic Games,’ said Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

Papandreou said that over 180 nations had already signed a Greek proposal for truce during the Olympic Games.

‘This new dynamism of truce and the delivery of humanitarian aid constitutes the core of the Olympic spirit,’ he added.

Organisers at the inauguration in Athens said the Truce initiative was already bearing fruit. The United States and Cuban Olympic Committees had just signed a cooperation agreement in Havana, Samaranch said, adding that he hoped this was a sign of things to come as sport promoted global peace and human understanding.

‘The National Olympic Committees of North and South Korea are also considering an IOC proposal to march together in the opening and closing ceremonies at the Sydney Games,’ he added.

The ancient Greek ‘Ekecheiria’ was established in the 9th century BC, after three kings signed a peace treaty that led to the widely recognised immunity of the sanctuary at Olympia.

Philip Pangalos Reuters

Source: SOCOG