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Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012: Olympic Truce

Volume 723: debated on Wednesday 15 December 2010

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what preparations they are making for the implementation of the Olympic Truce at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Government fully support the principles of tolerance and understanding, equal opportunities and fair play that underpin the Olympic Truce. As the host country, the UK will be promoting a fresh resolution calling for the continued observance of the Olympic Truce for the 2012 Games, as has every host nation since 1992.

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for that positive response, but is she aware that the entire purpose of the ancient Olympic Games was peace? That was underwritten by a sacred truce. Those games ran for 1,200 years, and violations were extremely rare. By contrast, the modern Olympic Games have been running for 110 years. They have been cancelled due to war three times, the subject of terrorist attacks twice and of mass boycotts five times, and the truce has been violated on virtually every occasion. What steps can Her Majesty's Government take to ensure that next time, we do things differently?

My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend for his enthusiasm and persistence in ensuring that the possibilities for an Olympic Truce are not overlooked. He will be aware that the UN resolution will not be drafted until January, and the Government will welcome proposals and ideas, including those along the lines that he suggested, which could be incorporated in the resolution. As for international peace proposals, we are of course dependent on other countries to help us to make any headway there.

My Lords, have the Government thought about whether they might want to extend the idea of the Olympic Truce to all other major sporting events, or at least have some occasion when we might discuss things outside sport when we are having a sporting event?

My noble friend makes a valid point. The core of the Olympic Truce was to promote the Olympic ideals, to use sport to help promote dialogue and reconciliation, especially between nations in conflict. We could perhaps look at future sporting events to see how that could be applied to, say, Rugby League, football and various other World Cups and world events.

My Lords, has the noble Baroness considered applying the wider ideals of the Olympic Truce, such as good behaviour and citizenship, along with inclusive school sport and the inspirational nature of the Games as something that could be considered a true legacy of the Olympics?

The noble Baroness makes a valid point. We are promoting a number of different ideas around the Olympics. They are not directly connected to the Olympic Truce but seek to involve today’s youth in different sports programmes. There is the Get Set programme sponsored by LOCOG, for example, and a project involving young people making films around the theme of truce. A lot of ideas are floating around at the moment and, as we get closer to the Games, we will need to pull them all together so that we derive a concrete legacy from the Olympics.

My Lords, is it true—this story has appeared in the press—that the budget for security for the Olympic Games in London is being severely cut? If it is true, and bearing in mind that whether or not we have a truce this extremely expensive two or three-week circus in London will be an invitation for bombs, bullets, bloodshed, blackmail and boycott—to say nothing of bogus budgets—would it not be a major folly to cut the security budget?

My noble friend makes some valid points but paints a rather depressing picture. Certainly matters of security around the Olympics are of high priority to the Government and will be dealt with in an appropriate way.

My Lords, I am interested in the Minister’s answer to the original Question about whether the Government are looking for a continuance of previous UN resolutions on the Olympic Truce. What are the Government going to do to deliver some kind of tangible result rather than fine-sounding words, which is what has happened for the past 100 years?

As the noble and gallant Lord says, there have been a lot of fine-sounding words. It is quite difficult to look back for examples of what has happened in countries which have previously declared their support for the Olympic Truce but have found it difficult to achieve particular outcomes to demonstrate it. It is early days at the moment and we welcome ideas on how something positive can come out of our Olympic Games in 2012.

Can the Minister reassure the House about our future Olympians—the young people of today—because we are getting conflicting messages? Can she tell us about the £162 million which was ring-fenced for school sport and about which there was much discussion? We understood that the Prime Minister was to intervene, but now we are told that he is not going to do so. Today we hear that that £162 million has disappeared. Where has it gone? How are we going to produce sportsmen and women in the future without it?

My Lords, the coalition Government are committed to reviving the culture of competitive sports in schools in ways that achieve real value for the sport. The Schools Olympics is one of the programmes designed to encourage every pupil in the country to get involved in competitive sport and to give them an opportunity to do so; and to harness the power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to inspire a generation of young people to take part in sport. There are a number of other initiatives which we hope will also contribute to that aim.

My Lords, given the importance of the question of the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, would the Minister be kind enough to tell the House what “in an appropriate way” means?

That was in reference to the security around the Olympics. Matters of security are best left to the people who have responsibility for them. The Question was about the Olympic Truce. Obviously matters of security will be relevant to that but are not directly relevant to this particular Question.

My Lords, my noble friend has said that she is open to at least considering suggestions. Would the Government be willing to consider the possibility of linking the observance of an Olympic Truce by a country with its participation in the following Olympics?

My noble friend makes an extremely interesting proposal. Given that we are at the stage of welcoming suggestions and proposals, perhaps we could have that question in writing and begin to develop some ideas around it.