Behind the recent controversy over Olympic ticket sales, the cost of the Olympics, and the effects it will have on Britain, is an unusual and perhaps an even more pertinent story that seems to be gathering pace. Lord Michael Bates, a Tory peer, who has worked as an MP for Langbaurgh in North Yorkshire, and held various other positions in Parliament, is walking from the traditional site of the Olympics, Olympia, to London.
Why the walk? The ‘Walk for Truce’ campaigns aims to raise awareness, and to pressurise the government to fulfil and take seriously the traditional obligations of the Olympic Games truce. After failing to gain enough support within Parliament for more serious discussion over what the new Resolution should contain, and how it can be implemented, Lord Bates decided something unique needed to be done.
Today, the Olympic Games foster competition and sporting achievements. Yet they originated out of a need for peace. Added to the exhibition of physical abilities was the notion that the Olympics would bring a pause on fighting. For seven days prior, after, and during the Olympics, a time of truce between warring factions was observed. Since 1993, it has become a UN Resolution that before the Olympic Games a new Resolution is proposed which all members sign, promising to honour the original spirit of peace and reconciliation of the Games.
What was once a meaningful agreement between all participants of the Olympics has become a symbolic gesture on behalf of the UN. Yet, in the current turmoil, with the Arab Spring, Afghanistan, Iraq and many more, the need for peace is even highlighted further. Walking seems to be a somewhat odd means of engendering peace for someone such as Lord Bates who is in a position of leadership, yet what has become apparent over the past few months is that the Government is struggling to tackle or even take action on some of the issues that have erupted.
“walking seems to be a somewhat odd means of engendering peace”
Can it work? Underlying this unusual endeavour is the question of whether it can do anything meaningful beyond the symbolic. Yet what Lord Bates has noted, is that doors previously closed in Parliament are starting to open and connections are being made; a groundswell of support is developing in the UK. In the past, truces have been successful a means of pausing conflict. This extraordinary measure could be what is needed to temper some of the violence, uprisings and hatred that 2011 has seen.
On Christmas Day 1914, during the First World War, a peace was procured. Enemies reminded themselves that they shared the common bonds of humanity and played football in No Man’s Land. In 2009 a one day of peace was arranged in Afghanistan between the Taliban and other factions to enable health workers to immunize 4.5 million children in otherwise unreachable war zones.
After the increasing disillusionment it is refreshing to see a politician take an active, albeit unusual stance to instigate action. The Olympics are emblematic of more than sport; they project national sentiments, and bring together politically aversive countries. The Games promise to be an exciting sporting competition, but may also become a reminder to governments to forgo conflict, and set a necessary political precedent in the current world conflicts.