The Olympic message of peace can be spread to Asia

By George N. Tzogopoulos
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 16, 2016
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Every time the Olympic Games take place in the modern era, attention is naturally turned towards competition in stadiums and records made by athletes of the world. However, little reference is made to the Olympic truce ideal which originates from Ancient Greece, specifically from 776 B.C. According to the historical ideal called "ekecheiria" in Greek, arms should not have been used for a period of approximately three months, during which the Olympiad was being organized. The objective was to ensure that the host city was not attacked and athletes and spectators could travel safely to the Games and peacefully return to their respective countries.

In spite of the commitment of the International Olympic Committee to revitalize the "ekecheiria" concept, progress has not been impressive. There are two main reasons which can explain the relevant failure. Firstly, Olympic Games in the modern era have almost completely lost their initial purity. While athletes tended to compete for glory and to receive a crown made by olive leaves in the past, they currently co-operate largely with sponsors - principally multinational companies - to increase profits by extensive publicity and steady advertisement. It is not a coincidence that some of them use illegal means to achieve their goals. Various cases where athletes consumed anabolic drugs to improve their personal performance have been announced in recent years.

Secondly, and more importantly, a contemporary Olympic Truce is a rather romantic objective. There is no better example than the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Georgia during the period of the Beijing Olympic Games in August 2008. Apart from this, the existence of several wars during Olympiads is equally disappointing. The continuous bombardment in the Middle East, which has been on the rise in Syria for instance, confirm that war is normally waged in the modern era irrespective of the useful lessons from Olympic history.

Even "Palestine," which has been entitled to participate with this name since the Atlanta Games of 1996, has not yet managed to create its own state. By contrast, the Arab-Israeli conflict remains the most complicated to be settled in world politics. Terrorist attacks by Palestinians in Israel are not a rare phenomenon while the military response is a usual strategy by Israeli defense forces. The so-called "two-state" solution seems easy in theory but difficult to be implemented in practice.

As the XXXI Olympiad is being hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, future Games come slowly to the forefront. Coincidentally, three of them will take place in Asia, namely the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. There is no question that the role of all three countries for the preservation of peace in Asia is of utmost significance in a period of high tensions. So, in spite of its generally romantic character, the ancient Greek term "ekecheiria" can possibly find practical resonance in South Korea, Japan and China.

The three countries need to be inspired by the Olympic truce ideal and remain committed to the principle of dialogue in order to avoid hostilities, which might soon escalate to large scale wars threatening world stability. To be precise, this ideal should not only be relevant to the organization of the three Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, Tokyo and Beijing, but have a permanent nature, guaranteeing prosperity in Asia.

Ongoing developments are not encouraging in the context of the strategic game played between China and the United States. The South China Sea dispute causes high concern for some - maybe accidental - military incidents. Moreover, the future deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea has already provoked Beijing, harming its relations with Seoul at an economic level. Also, the nuclear program of North Korea creates skepticism among relevant players in Asia and in the world but has not yet led to a successful mediation, with the exception of a UN Security Council resolution for some more sanctions.

The rise of China is a sine qua non parameter in every discussion about future peace in Asia. If the country's position is underestimated by its neighbors, the risk of unnecessary tensions will grow. The development of China is expected to continue in the coming years, certainly until 2022, and therefore should not be ignored not only by South Korea and Japan but also by the international community. On these grounds, the three countries can, maybe with the initiative of China which has the recent experience of the Beijing 2008 Olympics and also enjoys close relations with Greece where Games were born, embark on relevant public diplomacy campaigns. The common goal will be to make a difference and spread the Olympic spirit of peace to the whole Continent.

George N. Tzogopoulos is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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