With two years to go before the Games of the Olympiad return to their birth place in 2004, the concept of the Olympic Truce was celebrated today in Athens.
The International Olympic Truce Centre (IOTC), together with Foreign Minister for Greece and Truce Centre Vice-Chairman George Papandreou, launched the world-wide dissemination of the Olympic Truce message at a special event held at the Athens Music Hall. With world peace as a cornerstone of the Olympic Truce, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former South African President Nelson Mandela was invited to the event and honoured for his invaluable contributions to world peace.
In Ancient Greece, from the seventh day prior to the opening of the Games until the seventh day after they closed, conflicts were halted, allowing athletes, artists and spectators to travel to Olympia, participate in the Olympic Games and return to their homeland in safety. From this the tradition of the Olympic Truce or "Ekecheiria" was born.
In order to revive this tradition, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in close cooperation with Greece, recently founded the IOTC, an international non-governmental organisation. The mission of the IOTC is to encourage a symbolic world appeal for the respect of the Olympic Truce at all future Olympic Games, and to promote peace in areas of conflict around the world.