U.N. Chief Calls for ‘Olympic Truce’

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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called for people at war throughout the world the lay down their arms and observe observe an “Olympic Truce.”

“I repeat my call, again and again, for all warring parties to lay down their weapons during the Games,” Ban said, addressing the International Olympic Committee on the eve of the Winter Games in Sochi. Citing conflicts in Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan, he said a truce would allow for “life-saving humanitarian aid to suffering people,” the Associated Press reports.

Ban also criticized Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” laws, saying the international community must oppose any attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. “Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century,” he said.

One of the largest events that brings much of the world together, the Olympics are always tinged with politics, and this year is no exception. Russian President Vladimir Putin chose Sochi, reportedly one of his favorite vacation haunts, as the place to showcase Russia’s reemergence on the world stage. But cost overruns and terror threats have dominated the headlines, while Russia and the West remain at odds over the ongoing civil war in Syria and political turmoil in Ukraine.

If history is any indication, the momentum of international politics will continue apace, and the problems facing the international community will still be problematic two weeks from now. But the Olympics are a grand stage—one of the largest available—for an international leader to capture the attention of the world. While many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande, are staying home, Ban chose to deliver the keynote address to the IOC’s general assembly, which is the first by a U.N. secretary-general. He will also take part in Friday’s opening ceremonies. A U.N. spokeswomen told the AP that Ban’s participation is indicative of the “growing relationship between the IOC and the United Nations.”

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