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A Gold Medal for Peace? Principle 4 and the XXII Winter Olympics, Sochi Russia

Published: Fri 21 Feb 2014
A Gold Medal for Peace? Principle 4 and the XXII Winter Olympics, Sochi Russia

The XXII Winter Olympics are now underway in Sochi, Russia. The games started on 7th February surrounded by controversy over a set of issues ranging from concerns about the safety and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people following anti LGBT legislation passed in Russia in June 2013, to threats from jihadi groups linked to the insurgency in the north Caucasus.

Political boycotts and protests around global sporting events are not by any means unusual, and the Sochi games are no exception. Many western governments have refused to send representatives to Sochi in protest especially against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual) oppression and homophobic attitudes in Russia, but as well as boycotts the Games have provided a platform to counter such prejudice and assert the human rights of  LGBT people. While President Obama refused to attend, he appointed Brian Boitano, a gold medal figure skater who came out as gay in December 2013, as a member of the American Olympic delegation to Sochi.

In the run up to the Games, the Principle 6 campaign was launched in which over 50 former Olympians protested against the anti-gay laws and called for their abolition. Principle 6 is the clause in the Olympic charter that insists on non-discrimination (on the grounds of race, religion, politics and gender) as an Olympic value. Significantly Principle 4 of the 7 Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter asserts that goal of Olympism is “to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity”. The Olympic Games will not make peace happen, but they do provide an powerful platform for asserting the values of peace and peacemaking.

Many of these issues are actively being considered at the University of Bradford. The Peace studies Division at the University has been running its programmes for 40 years and as part of the events marking the 40th Anniversary of Peace Studies at Bradford, Emeritus Professor Tom Woodhouse is developing plans for talks and events to demonstrate the positive impact that sport can have in promoting peace and development.

Dan Gudgeon, a graduate of Bradford’s Peace studies degree, is now working in South Korea as part of a planning group for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Dan has also formed a Sport for Peace NGO in Korea which has been broadcast as a Korean TV documentary called Connecting Sports & Peace, shown on the South  Korean Internet TV Channel ‘Arirang’  After 10 programme on 29th October 2013. The programme can be viewed here.

In Colombia Tom Woodhouse has helped in the formation of a small NGO, Goals for Peace (Goles por la Paz), centred in the capital Bogota, and in the city of Bucaramanga in the north of Colombia.  This too is the subject of a Colombian TV programme which can be seen on on You Tube, (under Voluntarios por la Paz, in Spanish) here

Closer to home, Goals for Peace and the Peace Studies football team, Peace FC, have invited the sporting clubs of the University to mark the Winter Olympics by reminding us all of the peaceful nature of the Olympics in the form of the Olympic Truce, by helping to make university staff and students aware of the following declaration, written by Goals for Peace Colombia. This will be read at Goals for Peace events in Colombia and in Cebu in the Philippines in the course of the Olympics.

Olympic Truce Statement

The Olympic Truce was established in Greece in the 9th Century BC with the intention of stopping armed conflict and war during the celebration of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Truce allowed athletes, spectators, artists and their families to travel to the Olympic Games and return to their places of origin in total safety and is in fact, the first documented use of sport in human history to serve as an agent of peace. 

After remaining inactive for centuries, the family of nations and the family of sport have come together to revive the idea of the Olympic Truce acknowledging the potential contributions of sport to build more peaceful and more equitable societies.

 Nowadays the Olympic Truce embodies a call for communities worldwide to do anything in their capacity to stop any violent actions, war and conflicts, specifically during the celebration of the summer and winter Olympic Games. It is with great honour and enthusiasm that we respond to this call today joining other initiatives across the planet that believe in the symbolic and practical capacity of sport to positively transform our communities.

While recognizing that sport is not a solution to cure all the world’s most pressing issues, we acknowledge and celebrate the remarkable potential of sport to bring people together, to establish friendships, to entertain and to inspire. We here today, as individuals and as a community, to honour the idea of the Olympic Truce. 

Alexander Cárdenas                                  
Tom Woodhouse, Emeritus Professor
Caroline Hughes, Professor of Conflict Resolution and Peace
Goals for Peace International
Sam Butterworth UBU Sports Officer
Vincent Mens Peace FC Club Captain

These issues coincide with the University of Bradford’s annual LGBT History Month, which features a number of screenings at the Student Union Cinema.

For more information about the 40th anniversary of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford see the Peace Studies 40 website.

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