The power of sports competitions to unite the world and create opportunities for peace can never be underestimated.
The Olympic Games represent the pinnacle of international unity and cooperation, and the winter games in Seoul, South Korea, are no different. The games have a long history of bringing together different cultures and even stopping conflicts since they first began in 776 B.C., according to olympic.org.
Known as the Olympic Truce, Olympic organizers made agreements in the ancient world that if a nation wants to compete in the games it must temporarily stop any conflicts it has with other competing nations. The Olympic Games lasted for about 1,000 years until they were stopped by a Roman emperor for religious reasons.
Centuries had come and gone before the games were finally reintroduced into the world in the 19th Century. Today they exist as a keystone in international competition, prestige and, most importantly, diplomacy.
In 1992, something incredible happened. With the support of the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revived the Olympic Truce to make a global appeal to end conflict. Former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch announced this renaissance of peace in 1994.
“Our message is stronger than ever,” he said. “Please stop the fighting. Please stop the killing. Please drop your guns.”
How much the Olympic Games have helped bring about peace in the modern world can probably never fully be recognized, but peace has flourished in recent years. Despite what headlines, talking heads and fear-mongers in Washington may have you believe, the world is more peaceful today than it has been for hundreds of years. Conflicts are still raging on throughout the world, but as Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker points out, domestic and international killings are generally dropping to record lows.
The need to advocate for peace, especially at the Olympic Games has not gone away, nor should it ever. The winter games in South Korea opened a cumbersome door for peace with North Korea. An uneasy armistice has been in place with the volatile nation for 65 years. At times the peace is held together as securely as a leaky garden hose wrapped in duct tape.
But with North Korean athletes competing in the games, and Pyongyang government officials sitting feet from South Korean and United States diplomats, hope has been kindled.
As the Olympic Games ended on Sunday, headlines from around the world proudly announced that North Korea is willing to create a dialogue with South Korea and the U.S. Where the talks will lead is up for speculation, but the fact that they are happening is a step in the right direction.
The ancient power of the Olympic Truce has once again done its job to create new opportunities for peace. Now it is up to world leaders to not put it to waste.
So far things are not looking good on that front. As North Korea said it’s willing to initiate diplomatic talks, the White House put new sanctions on North Korea and leaned heavily on fashion model and inexperienced-diplomat Ivanka Trump to represent the U.S. delegation, according the New York Post.
The Olympic Games can only open new doors. Unfortunately, it is up to world leaders to decide who they are sending through those doors.