In defence of Olympic Truce

Professor Andy Miah
5 min readJul 29, 2021

The Olympic Truce is the programme of work led by the International Olympic Committee that takes inspiration from the ancient Greek tradition of Ekecheria, which was invoked during the ancient Olympic Games to allow safe passage of participants to Ancient Olympia for the purpose of competition.

The myth is that it was effective. The truth is likely to be that it didn’t always work, but it worked enough for the Ancient Olympic Games to take place and become historic events that later inspired Pierre de Coubertin to revive them in modern times, at a time when the value of internationalisation was only just taking hold.

The truth about the modern Olympic Truce may well resemble its ancient predecessor, but this doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. The failure of some regions of ancient Greece to adhere to the Truce, or for some people to fail in their respect for the initiative does not mean that it was or is either a failure or a myth. As well, the fact that the Olympic movement could do more to bring about a peaceful world does not mean that what it does presently is of no value or that it is ineffective.

By and large, the Olympic Games do take place relatively unfettered by conflict. As well, the range of organizations that are mobilised by the Olympic Truce programme will have an impact on people around the world, especially young people — the Olympic movement’s core audience and community. With all the critical commentaries surrounding the Olympic Games, it’s important to remember that a big part of who the IOC seeks to inspire is children and these sentiments of Truce are not lost on children or burdened by cynicism.

The fairest way to judge the effectiveness of the Olympic Truce is on whether the athletes can get to the Games and, in large part, they do. In this sense, the Truce is a success, but its existence may have no bearing on this reality. Without the UN calling for Truce to be upheld in partnership with the IOC, things may simply proceed as they do for other sports events; athletes turn up and compete reasonably unburdened by global politics.

Yet, we should also not underestimate the fragility of international sports events. It was not so long ago that countries boycotted the Games for political reasons and this remains an ever-present threat to the…

Professor Andy Miah

Chair in Science Communication & Future Media @SalfordUni / written 4 Washington Post, Wired + found on CNN, BBC Newsnight, TEDx #posthuman