Ban Ki-moon

Week 20 (1 - 7 February 2014)

He already has the Olympic Order and a black belt in taekwondo to his name and this week United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ingratiated himself further to the sports world by addressing IOC members in a 19-minute speech at the 126th IOC Session in Sochi.

It was the first time a UN Secretary General had ever attended an IOC Session but Ban left his mark on more than just the history books as those present witnessed a passionate piece of public speaking.

It is under Ban that the IOC received its UN observer status in 2009 and the tone of his speech on Thursday suggested that an ever tighter working relationship is being established.

"The United Nations is harnessing this (sport's) enormous power for progress. Our vision to leverage the volume and power of sport for peace and development enjoys the full support of all United Nations member states."

He also spoke of the "global team" of the United Nations and the IOC who "are not competing on the ski slopes or skating rinks. We are joining our forces together for our shared ideals. Sustainability. Universality. Solidarity. Non-discrimination. The fundamental equality of all people around the world."

That was a well-received message for IOC members but Ban's next words had them breaking out in spontaneous applause.

"I repeat my call again and again for all warring parties to lay down their weapons during the Games."

With this appeal – and others such as his call for the Olympic Truce to be respected in all countries "particularly Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic" – Ban showed his own respect for IOC President Thomas Bach's intention for the Olympic Movement to be "politically neutral without being apolitical."

Ban also quoted from Bach's presidency manifesto, including his motto "Unity in Diversity". Yet what may have pleased Bach and his IOC members the most was Ban's recognition that the Olympic Games are about athletes and that politicians' influence ends at the point where theirs starts. 

"There is one thing which is still missing. I don't know if it's possible or not possible. I need a gold medal," he said with a wide smile across his face. "But I understand that even the President of the IOC might not be able to give it to me. You may have reserved me a gold medal. I would like to give it to the athletes."

History was made in Sochi simply by Ban Ki-moon turning up but his supportive words for the IOC and for its future relationship with the United Nations has given the Olympic Movement an extra fillip at the start of the XXII Olympic Winter Games.

Source: Das österreichische Außenministerium (edited)