UN adopts symbolic Olympic truce period
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday adopted a symbolic resolution calling for a global truce throughout the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympic games in Sochi, Russia.
The General Assembly has passed similar resolutions since 1993, but countries continue fighting wars whether the Olympics are on or not.
The Moscow-sponsored resolution made no reference to calls for a boycott of the games to protest a new Russian anti-gay law.
Russia’s recent law prohibiting promotion of “nontraditional” sexual relations has been denounced by gay activists and criticized by President Barack Obama. Activists have called for a boycott of the Sochi Games, although Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron say they oppose one. The Russian law does not outlaw gay sex, which was legalized in Russia in 1993.
Russia has some history with Olympic boycotts. In 1980, the United States led a boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, and the Soviets in turn pulled out of the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles.
The Olympic Games were canceled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 by the global disruption of World Wars I and II.
During the 2008 Summer Olympics, Russia and Georgia fought a war over the disputed territory of South Ossetia. On Wednesday, Georgia’s U.N. delegate accused Russia of occupying parts of Georgia four years after the conflict. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin replied that it was Georgia that “attacked South Ossetia and even attacked Russian peacekeepers” at the outbreak of the war.
President Vladimir Putin has declared he has no intention of allowing a gay pride parade during the Olympics. He recently signed a decree banning all demonstrations and rallies in Sochi throughout the Winter Games.
Russia’s law sparked a boycott of Russian vodka in gay bars across North America and vodka dumps in front of Russian embassies and consulates. Despite some calls for a boycott, but no country or athlete has yet declined to attend the games.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, a former Olympic fencer for Germany, spoke Wednesday before the General Assembly and sought to defuse the gay boycott controversy.
“Sport stands for dialogue and understanding which transcend all differences,” Bach said, adding: “Boycotts are a fundamental contradiction to the spirit of sport, depriving it of the means to continue working for peace, mutual understanding and solidarity.”
Syria is a co-sponsor of this year’s resolution. There seems to be little prospect that the Syrian civil war will abate before the Olympics next February. The U.N. says the war has killed at least 100,000 people.
The resolution cites ancient Greece’s traditional Olympic truce period that allowed free passage of athletes and spectators from often-warring city-states to the original games every four years.
But even that tradition was broken when the Greek city of Elis attacked the neighboring town of Pisa while it was hosting the Festival of Zeus and the Olympic Games.
The Sochi Olympics are from Feb. 7-23; the Paralympics are from March 7-16.