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THOMAS BACH: “Like no other human activity, sport is about bringing people together in the spirit of friendship and respect”


The IOC President’s speech at the Lighting of the Olympic Flame Ceremony
We are gathering today on the hallowed grounds of Olympia, where three thousand
years ago, the Ancient Greek civilization first celebrated the tradition of the Olympic
Games. It was on this exact spot, that the first Olympic Games were held and the
unique gift of the Greeks to humankind was born.

The Olympic Games brought the different Greek city states together for
peaceful competition every four years. As the world prepares to gather in Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil, to celebrate the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, we are reminded of
the power of sport to bring people together in peace. Today we are paying tribute to
this heritage. Then as now, the Olympic Games are a message of hope and peace.
Today is one of the rare moments when the past and the future of humanity connects.
As our founder Pierre de Coubertin said, and I quote: “The Olympic Games are a
pilgrimage to the past and an act of faith in the future.”

We are marking the beginning of the celebration of the Games of the XXXI
Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. From this moment on the Olympic flame will
spread the Olympic Values of tolerance, solidarity and peace to all Brazilians and
indeed to all the people of the world.

The Olympic Values are eternal values – they were as relevant in ancient times
as they are today. Like no other human activity, sport is about bringing people
together in the spirit of friendship and respect. Sport always builds bridges, it never
erects walls. In a world shaken by crises, the message that our shared humanity is
greater than the forces that divide us, is more relevant than ever before.
This is why, together with our friends from Brazil, we are writing history
today. For the first time, the Olympic Games will be held in South America. This
milestone proves their universality.

The Olympic Games are a great gift shared by all of humanity. Rio de Janeiro
with the support of all Brazilians will provide a spectacular stage to showcase the
best of the human spirit. In just a few weeks, the Brazilian people will enthuseiastically
welcome the world and amaze us with their joy of life and their passion for
sport. This will be Brazil’s moment and this will be Brazil’s Games.
Today marks the start of the flame’s journey to Brazil. This Olympic Games
will be a message of hope in troubled times – and the flame will carry this message
into all corners of Brazil and, indeed, all the world. In these difficult days that Brazil
is facing, the flame is a timeless reminder that we all are part of the same humanity.
The flame is an ancient symbol of peace and harmony, a symbol of the power
of humanity to come together despite our differences. This will be the greatest
legacy of the Olympic Games for Brazil and for the world. The torch relay will
spread the message of our shared humanity to all people of the beautiful country of
Brazil, a nation that is built on the idea that its strength comes from uniting all of its
cultural richness. Brazil is unique in its diversity. Let the celebration of the Games
of the XXXI Olympiad in this vast and wonderful country show the world the true
meaning of unity in diversity.
United in our diversity, we are greater than the sum of our parts. May today’s
lighting of the Olympic flame be another reminder to everyone to uphold the spirit
of the Olympic Games and to build a better world through sport. Just as the pure
rays of the sun light the Olympic flame today, it is my hope that the Olympic Games
will inspire the nations of the world with the spirit of tolerance, solidarity and
peace. By coming together in unity to celebrate the rich diversity of our shared
humanity, the Olympic Games give us all hope that a better world is possible.
Together, we can change the world.
Thank you.

This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.


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