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UN Presence at the 2012 Olympics: How Olympic Games Reflect UN Ideals

July 30, 2012

by Nina Wineburgh, Public-Private Alliance Foundation Intern

On Friday July 27th, over 40 million people worldwide tuned in to watch the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, breaking records as the most watched opening ceremony in history. It was an extravagant and entertaining display bringing together some of the most notable faces in the world – Queen Elizabeth, a beloved Beatle (Paul McCartney), the current James Bond (Daniel Craig), movie character Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson), international soccer star David Beckham, and UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon.  The Secretary-General was among eight honored humanitarians who carried in the Olympic flag.

UN flag hangs next to Olympic flag at 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.

At the ceremony, the blue flag with UN logo hung prominently from the ceiling next to the official Olympic flag, highlighting the UN’s presence at the 2012 games.

So what does the UN mean to the Olympics in 2012 – and what do the Olympics mean to the UN?

The Olympics is certainly a strong platform to exhibit the United Nations to the general public. Considering the popularity of the games, the flag is a reminder that the UN unites the interests of the world’s people, just as the Olympics connects the world through sports and competition.

In keeping with UN General Assembly resolutions since 1993, reviving an ancient Greek tradition in honor of the games, the UN Secretary-General called for an “Olympic Truce.” He requested cooperation with “the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee in their efforts to use sport as a tool to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation in areas of conflict during and beyond the Olympic and Paralympic Games period.” The Truce calls for the cessation of all conflicts throughout the duration of the Olympics.  But what makes 2012 remarkable is that for the first time all 193 UN member states co-sponsored the resolution and it passed unanimously – a feat that shows true potential and promise for our world’s future and the future of the UN.

As Secretary-General Ban remarked, “If people and nations can set aside their differences, if they can place harmony over hostility, if they can do it for one day, or for one event, they can do it forever. That is the message of the Olympic Truce. That is also the dream on which the United Nations is built, and the goal of our daily work.”

Millions of viewers worldwide saw the UN flag.  It is for all of us to think of what it stands for, especially in context of the Olympics. May the constructive competition, country pride and unified forum of the Olympics, as well as the UN Olympic Truce, serve to inspire individuals and countries worldwide.  Perhaps a peaceful world is not as far off as it may seem. As the Secretary-General said, if we can all live harmoniously for a day or a few weeks, maybe we can make a future out of peace.

UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon (top row, second from left) helps present Olympic flag at Opening Ceremony

Check out this UN video to hear Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon discussing the Olympic Truce:

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