Statement on Agenda Item 45: "Building a better and more peaceful world through sport and the Olympic Ideal", in the Plenary of the General Assembly

Wellington Webb
Senior Advisor 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
October 19, 2009


Mr. President, my name is Wellington Webb and I am privileged to serve on the United States Delegation to the 64th Assembly at the invitation of my friend President Obama.  Having served as mayor of Denver, Colorado, I have long supported the United States Olympic Committee that is headquartered in Colorado.   Therefore, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the United States today on the topic of building a better and more peaceful world through sport and the Olympic ideal.

The Olympic Movement’s fundamental goal has been to serve society, to place sport at the service of humanity and to promote peaceful societies committed to the preservation of human dignity.  The United States is pleased to co-sponsor today’s resolution inviting the International Olympic Committee to participate as a Permanent Observer in the General Assembly.

In many resolutions over the years UN Member States have called for UN system-wide cooperation with the IOC to implement projects using sport as a tool for peace building, human development, humanitarian relief and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  The offer of observer status to the IOC recognizes the potential for sport to inspire us to pursue the goals and ideals of international understanding, security and prosperity as envisioned in the United Nations Charter

Over the years, the IOC has signed memorandums of understanding with 15 UN specialized agencies and programs, and cooperates with another 10 of them.  In May 2006, the UN Secretary-General formalized the working relationship that had already developed between the IOC and some UN peacekeeping missions to apply sport to in rebuilding confidence between parties coming out of conflict.

The United States is also pleased to co-sponsor today’s draft entitled “Building a better and more peaceful world through sport and the Olympic ideal,” which proclaims an Olympic Truce for the XXI Olympic Winter Games and Tenth Paralympic Winter Games at Vancouver, Canada, this February.  We have co-sponsored similar resolutions on nine occasions since 1993.

The Olympic Truce promotes international understanding based on the principle that sports can inspire peace.  Since the beginning of the ancient games in 776 BC, athletic competition has helped transcend our differences.  The Truce’s central purpose has been to bring people together, to enable the safe passage and participation of all concerned with the Games. 

The International Olympic Truce Foundation, established by the IOC, promotes the global support and observance of the Olympic Truce.  It encourages all to act in favor of peace, mobilizes youth for the promotion of the Olympic ideals, establishes contacts between communities in conflict, and offers humanitarian support in countries undergoing strife.
Mr. President, today the United States delegation also is pleased to be among the co-sponsors of the draft resolution “2010 International Federation of Association World Cup event” (A/64/L.3) introduced by the delegation of South Africa. 2010 will mark the first time that a sports event of this scale will take place in Africa.  My delegation is particularly pleased that the U.S. team will be among those competing.  The United States’ attention will be all the greater in enhancing the 2010 World Cup’s legacy of sport for peace and development in Africa.

At Vancouver this February, athletes will set aside their political, religious and social differences and compete on a level playing field in the pursuit of excellence.  As President Obama noted just a few weeks ago, “in a world where we've all too often witnessed the darker aspects of our humanity, peaceful competition between nations represents what's best about our humanity.”

The theme of “Sport for Peace and Development” is of great importance to the United States, even in non-Olympic years.  The United States welcomed the establishment of a United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace.  More and more people around the world understand the value of such efforts.

“SportsUnited” is a U.S. diplomatic outreach program to start a dialogue at the grassroots level with boys and girls abroad.  It aids youth in discovering how success in athletics can be translated into the development of life skills and achievement in the classroom.  Those youth establish links with U.S. sports professionals and exposure to American life and culture.  Young athletes and coaches are invited to the United States to learn about sports in America.  American athletes and coaches go abroad to conduct clinics in sport to stress teambuilding, education, positive health, and respect for all.  Americans learn about foreign cultures and the challenges young people overseas face today.

Mr. President, our discussions today remind the world of the importance of preparing for the forthcoming Games in spirit as well as in body.  Sport is not simply an end in itself.  It should also serve as means to promote peace and to educate the youth of the world. 

Thank you.


PRN: 2009/224