Saturday, July 30, 2011

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Walking Briton calls for Olympic truce

  • Saturday, July 30, 2011
  • Aruntha Kanagaratnam
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  • A Briton who is walking across Europe from Olympia in Greece to London, venue for the 2012 Olympics, arrived in Sarajevo on Wednesday and called for an international truce during next year's Games.

    "My campaign ... is to try to make sure that next year in London the Olympic truce is implemented again," Michael Bates told journalists exactly one year before the 2012 Games get underway.

    "Sarajevo is very significant. Sarajevo was the first place where the (modern) Olympic truce was implemented in 1994.

    "It was to allow humanitarian aid to enter the city, which was under siege. Very sadly, that was the last time the Olympic truce was implemented."

    The Bosnian capital, which hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, was ravaged during the inter-ethnic war in the 1990s.

    During the 1992-1995 war it was held in a siege by Bosnian Serb forces for 44 months, during which some 10,000 civilians, including 1,500 children, died.

    The United Nations' first resolution on the Olympic truce was reached ahead of the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and was briefly respected during Bosnia's war.

    According to Bates, a similar resolution is proposed and adopted ahead of every Olympic Games but they are never respected.

    The idea of the Olympic truce dates back to 776BC in ancient Greece. King Iphitos of Elis is said to have visited the oracle at Delphi in a bid to bring an end to the civil wars that were plaguing the Hellenic world.

    The priestess advised that he should restore the Olympic Games in honour of Zeus, the mightiest of the Gods, and institute a truce or ekecheiria for their duration.

    Iphitos agreed and the truce was installed to allow competitors free and safe passage to Olympia.

    Bates left Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics, on April 22 and is planning to arrive in London in spring 2012, after walking some 5,600 kilometres (3,472 miles).

    The 50-year-old Bates has so far walked around 1,600 kilometres, passing across Greece, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro.

    London hosts the 2012 Olympic Games from July 27 to August 12 next year.

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