Today was the first day of the UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador Training in which I’m representing Sri Lanka. The exciting part is that at the end of the 9 day training I would be appointed as a Youth Peace Ambassador.
So let me give you some background on the whole purpose of this training initiative. This was first and foremost organised to promote the Olympic Truce and make it more meaningful and to also come up with action plans to promote the Olympic Truce for Rio 2016. The Olympic Truce is a call for six weeks of global peace from the start of the Olympics to the end of Paralympics. And I feel extremely privileged to be a part of this exciting initiative.
Today the Youth Ambassadors’ met each other for the first time, there were representatives of Israel, Iran, Nigeria, Gambia, France, South Africa and England. We were also expecting youth from Afghanistan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Somalia however due to not been granted visa on time they couldn’t make it.
We met with Lord Michael Bates at the House of Lords to discuss the Olympic Truce and learn from his amazing determination in promoting peace. He tried very hard to get the government and Olympic Officials to promote the Olympic Truce in a bigger way since the Olympic Truce was a central part of the Olympic Games and the real reason for the Olympics. There were discussions about it and the UN resolution declaring the London 2012 Olympic Truce was signed by 197 countries. Months before the resolution was passed Lord Bates had the idea of doing something more, something that required a lot of physical and mental determination.
To highlight the immense opportunity to promote peace during the Olympics, Lord Bates embarked on a 2234 mile walk from Olympia, Greece to Westminster in London. This is a magnificent act to promote peace however he got little or no media attention, they didn’t highlight the real reason for this walk but instead asked him questions like if he claimed for expenses during his trip, or did anyone sponsor him and even if any celebrities joined him. But the truth is Lord Michael walked alone for 300 days and the biggest message he got by crossing all these countries is that there is no difference between the people in different countries or between the rich and the poor, “we are all exactly the same” he said. (Click here to find out more about Lord Bates’ Walk for Truce)
But why is this mammoth opportunity for peace downplayed by the media and in fact by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)? Isn’t peace what everyone wants? Isn’t peace the reason the troops are in Afghanistan? Even at a time of peace when the world power’s could have used their power to promote six weeks of peace, there were still conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria. So was the passing of the UN resolution just by word and not by deed? Gordon Sillence, Co-ordinator of the UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador Training said that it seems like a “rhetorical process, widening the gap between the rhetoric and reality”.
The most shocking thing is that there was meant to be a call for one minute of silence to honour the truce during the opening ceremony of the Olympics, but it didn’t take place. And the reason for this, said the representative of the UK Foreign Office/Conflict Prevention, is that it is highly controlled by the IOC, even the rules for using the Olympic Truce flag are very limited and the Olympic Truce was not mentioned even once.
So, our mission as Youth Peace Ambassador’s is to get some recognition for the Olympic Truce; the real meaning of the Olympics. The discussions included how we can get the media’s attention regarding this or how we can at least get the IOC to observe one minute of silence during the Paralympics Closing Ceremony.
We didn’t want to wait longer, we need to be ambassador’s of action and not just words, so we went to the Channel 4 (Main broadcaster of the Paralympics 2012) Head Office, marched right into the building and asked to speak to someone about the Olympic Truce and get them to mention it in their coverage of the Paralympics, but as you can imagine (or not) we were told that there is no one to speak to us. We were not surprised, after all the media seems to be fixated on less meaningful things.
Will Coldplay’s performance at the Paralympic’s closing ceremony outshine the call for peace? There is still hope that we can act before the end of the week, get their attention and have the true meaning of the Olympics highlighted. We’re not giving up, the whole week will be spent thinking about ways to get the Olympic Truce noticed, and considering the amazing team we have I’m sure it will be possible.
Did you know?
The Olympics was originally organised as a call for peace, an event for sport to replace violence.