The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution by acclamation Monday urging all countries to stop hostilities and observe a truce during the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea — a message especially aimed at North Korea.
The resolution, adopted with a bang of the gavel by Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak to loud applause, urges U.N. member states to observe the truce from seven days before the games begin on Feb. 9 until seven days after the Paralympic Winter Games end on March 18.
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, told the 193-member world body that with the resolution the General Assembly is "creating the conditions for all athletes to compete in peace."
"Only the U.N. member states can guarantee the athletes the safe passage to the Olympic Games," he said. "They make it possible for all the Olympic athletes to realize their dream of a lifetime."
Lee Hee Beom, president of the South Korean organizing committee, said the resolution signifies the General Assembly's "strong wish that Pyeongchang will provide the window of opportunity to foster an environment conducive to building and sustaining peace on the Korean peninsula, and in northeast Asia."
'Promotion of peace'
He recalled the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where delegations from both Koreas walked into the opening ceremony "marching together, hand in hand under the same flag." It simply said "Korea."
"We hope our joint action today will lead to a chain reaction for the promotion of peace within the region and beyond," Lee added. "Together we are more powerful than any of us working alone."
South Korean Olympic gold medallist Yuna Kim, who is a goodwill ambassador for the Winter Games, expressed hope that the competition "will spread the message of peace through one of the few languages that has the power to unite people around the world — the graceful and universal language of sport."
"Indeed, Pyeongchang represents perhaps the most sincere efforts to cross frozen borders between South and North Korea and foster a peaceful environment," she said.
The resolution recalls the ancient Greek tradition of "ekecheiria," which called for a cessation of hostilities to encourage a peaceful environment, ensure safe passage and participation of athletes in the ancient Olympics.
The General Assembly revived the tradition in 1993 and has adopted resolutions before all Olympics since then, but member states involved in conflicts have often ignored the call for a truce.
The Pyeongchang games "will give us hope in our troubled times for a better future," Bach said. "The Olympic Games demonstrate that our values of a shared humanity are stronger than all the forces that want to divide us."