Olympic Truce for sake of mankind’s grand sports gathering

31 07 2008

www.chinaview.cn 2008-07-31 07:37:43

Special report: 2008 Olympic Games

By Song Jing and Fu Rong

BEIJING, July 30 (Xinhua) — UN leaders have this week called for an Olympic Truce, a cessation of all hostilities worldwide for the duration of the Beijing Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

The calls, made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President of the UN General Assembly Srgjan Kerim respectively on Monday, reflect the Olympic spirit and the mankind’s dream for peace as well as the joint aspirations of the whole international community.

Conflicts and wars have been tragedies in the history of humanity, while peace is mankind’s ever-lasting dream. As the theme slogan of the upcoming Olympics “One World, One Dream” embodies, while the world community is made up of people of different skin colors, languages, races, religions, they share the global village as well as the dream for peace and harmony.

It is the Olympic host country’s sincere wish and the deep aspiration of people around the world that all the people on the Earth can enjoy the charms of the Olympics and at the same time share the joy and happiness in peace and harmony.

The Olympic Truce, which embodies a brilliant revival of the tradition that can be traced back to more than 2,000 years ago, draws its origins to the warring city-states in ancient Greece who agreed to observe a sacred truce while the games lasted, to allow athletes and spectators enjoy the quadrennial sports gathering in an atmosphere of peace and happiness.

The truce marked a milestone in Olympic history: the Games became a gathering for opposing wars and embracing unity, as well as a symbol of peace and fraternity.

Yet the historic journey to the revival of the glorious tradition was full of twists and turns and the endeavor suffered repeated setbacks.

In the early 20th century, Pierre de Coubertin, known as the father of the modern Olympics, had tried unsuccessfully to convince warring nations of the need to observe a truce. The ensuing two world wars not only dealt a ruthless blow to mankind’s ideal for peace, but also ruined three Olympic events. As recently as in the 1992 Barcelona Games, athletes from the war-torn former Yugoslavia were only allowed to participate as individuals.

The bitter lessons prompted people to reflect upon the chaos brought by wars. The Olympic Truce’s formal inclusion in the process of the United Nations represents the high approval of and universal respect for the noble idea of peace on the part of the international community.

Last October, the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a truce during the Beijing Olympic Games.

The resolution, submitted by China and co-sponsored by 186 nations, urged member states to observe the Olympic Truce individually and collectively during the Games of the 29th Olympiad in Beijing and the following Paralympic Games.

It also called on the UN member states to peacefully resolve all the international disputes in line with the spirit of the UN Charter.

The concept of the Olympic Truce was revived by the International Olympic Committee in 1992 which relayed it to the United Nations. Since 1993, the UN General Assembly has appealed for the truce to be observed, by adopting a resolution one year before each edition of the Olympic Games.

The UN endeavors to maintain world peace and promote common development are highly consistent with the Olympic movement’s spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play, and both are the lofty ideals being pursued by human society.

As Srgjan Kerim, president of the 62nd session of the General Assembly put it, the Olympic Games bring together athletes from all over the world and peace, mutual understanding and goodwill will be promoted among different countries and peoples during the great sporting festival.

These goals are the component parts of the fundamental values of the United Nations, Kerim added.

While nobody would cherish unrealistic hopes of getting rid of the chaos of war during the brief period of peace brought about by the Olympic Truce, the Olympic movement, which symbolizes peace and development, endeavors to bring about a peaceful future for mankind.

The brief truce is not only a precious moment for the world, but also serves as peace lessons for people to reflect upon the untold suffering caused by war. People would ask themselvels: why can’t mankind resolve disputes through peaceful means in this world of ours?

It also offers a rare opportunity for the international community to provide relief for suffering populations and promote peace dialogues.

For the sake of the Olympics, the grand sports gathering for all mankind, let there be a truce across the world. For mankind to have a future of lasting peace and common development, let the world seek and maximize the Olympic Truce.

With less than two weeks to go before the Olympics open in Beijing, the Chinese government is facing the horrendous possibility of terrorist attacks a

29 07 2008

Beijing reacts quickly to claims by the Turkistan Islamic Party taking responsibility for recent attacks and threatening more during the Games

https://i1.wp.com/images.businessweek.com/story/08/600/0728_tiananmen_square.jpgChinese policemen stand guard on the Tiananmen Square on July 28, 2008 in Beijing, China. The Chinese authorities have tightened security with over 100,000 police, professional and volunteer security guards. The Beijing Olympic Games start on August 8. ANDREW WONG/Getty Images

With less than two weeks to go before the Olympics open in Beijing, the Chinese government is facing the horrendous possibility of terrorist attacks aimed at the Games. On July 23 an apparent terrorist group released a video taking responsibility for bus bomb blasts a few days before in the southwestern city of Kunming that killed two people. The group also claimed as its own another attack in Shanghai that killed three people in May.

In the video, the group calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party (BusinessWeek.com, 3/17/08), apparently a Uighur Muslim separatist organization pushing for independence for China’s far western region of Xinjiang, threatened more attacks, including during the Beijing Games that run from Aug. 8-24. “Our aim is to target the most critical points related to the Olympics. We will try to attack Chinese central cities severely using the tactics that have never been employed,” said Seyfullah, the purported commander of the group, according to a translation by the Washington (D.C.)-based terrorism analyst organization IntelCenter.

The government has reacted quickly with reports in the state-controlled press denying the blasts were Olympics-related. “So far, no evidence has been found to indicate the explosions were connected with terrorists and their attacks, or with the Beijing Olympics,” a Yunnan public security official said on July 26, according to China’s official news agency Xinhua. “The blast was indeed deliberate but had nothing to do with terrorist attacks,” added a second official from Shanghai in the same report.

Missiles Defend Olympic Venues

That may be the official stance, but there is no denying that Beijing now views the security of the Games as its paramount concern. China’s efforts—ranging from putting surface-to-air missiles around Olympic venues such as the Bird’s Nest stadium and Water Cube aquatics center, to the planned closure of Beijing’s international airport during the opening ceremony—are turning this year’s Olympics into the most security-focused Games in history. “A safe Olympics is the premise for a first-class Games with Chinese characteristics. Safety is our top concern here,” the state press reported Vice-President Xi Jinping saying while touring Olympic facilities on July 21.

To ensure security, Beijing already held a series of anti-terrorist drills in June aimed at dealing with possible bomb or chemical attacks, as well as attempts to kidnap athletes. Now the capital is preparing to deploy more than 100,000 police, army troops, and volunteers around the capital. Police checkpoints have been set up along major roads to check identity cards for those trying to enter Beijing. Armed police with bomb-sniffing dogs now patrol the city’s railway and subway stations. An additional 2,000 security guards as well as 200 X-ray machines are in the capital’s 93 subway stations to watch for guns, knives, and explosive or flammable liquids.

Meanwhile, Beijing has placed 300,000 surveillance cameras throughout the capital to monitor any suspicious activities. Access to all Olympics venues is being screened, with everything from standard metal detectors to technology for fingerprint and iris scanning. China will spend a record $6.5 billion on surveillance equipment. That compares with the $1.4 billion spent in Athens for the 2004 Games, according to the Alexandria (Va.)-based Security Industry Assn.

Closed Political System Has Greater Control

“All work related to Olympic security is in full swing and security personnel and equipment are all in place,” said Liu Shaowu, director of security for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games Security Dept. on July 23. “Beijing is confident of dealing with any kind of security threat and will present the world a safe and peaceful Olympics.”

Despite the recent attacks, security experts believe the Chinese government is well-positioned to thwart terrorist threats to the Games. “In a country such as China with a relatively closed political system, they probably are somewhat better prepared when it comes to security than in a more open country like the U.S.,” notes Harvey Schiller, the CEO of New York-based risk management consultancy GlobalOptions Group. “I suspect they have some advantages in securing security,” adds Schiller, who formerly served as the executive director and secretary general of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Roberts is BusinessWeek‘s Asia News Editor and China bureau chief.