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The Olympics at the beginning of the new Millenium
23 May 2001
Category: Speeches

Thank you Premier Harris for your introduction, thank you Mr Gross for your kind invitation to speak tonight, thank you Minister Mrs Sheila Copps for your pertinent and accurate remarks this evening.

I am happy to appear before such distinguished representatives of the international sport Media.

The Olympic Games capture the imagination of people across the globe. They unite the world. For 17 days, people world-wide are glued to their television sets. The 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta were telecast in more than 200 countries and territories, to a global audience of 19.6 billion people. Nine out of ten potential viewers watched these Games. The recent Sydney Games and the Nagano Winter Games, which I both attended, experienced the same broadcast success.

In three years from now, the Games will return to their birthplace. Greece will once again be the host of the greatest peace event in the world.

As you know, other members of my family also competed in the Olympic Games.

- The late King of Norway, who won a gold medal as a crew of the Norwegian boat in the Amsterdam Games in 1928.

We also have:

- The present Kings of Spain and Norway, who both participated in the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

- Princess Anne, who was a member of the British three day eventing team at the 1976 Games in Montreal.

- The Crown Prince of Spain, who became an Olympic champion, achieving sixth place as a member of the crew of the Spanish Soling Class boat, at the brilliantly organised Olympic Games of Barcelona in 1992.

- And his sister, Infanta Christina, who participated in the Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

- Most of you may know of the repeated participation in the different Olympics by Prince Albert of Monaco.

- And last and certainly, in my opinion, not least, my beloved sister Queen Sophia, who was the substitute crew in my 1960 Olympic team.

As you all know, the ancient Olympic Games date back to 776 BC. Although the actual Games were banned by Emperor Theodosseus in 394 AD, the greatness and traditions survived, thanks to the poems of Pindar and the accounts of Pausanias, and the decorations on vases, coins and jewels from Ancient Greece.

In June 1894, my Great-Grandfather, King George I of Greece, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founding father of the modern Olympics, and a group of gentlemen met at the Sorbonne in Paris. Their "mission" was to revive the Olympic Games, an athletic festival, they believed, rooted in the challenging idea that sport could promote international understanding and co-operation.

The International Olympic Committee was formed at this meeting and the first "modern" Games held in Athens in 1896, with 245 athletes from 13 countries participating.

My Grandfather, the then Crown Prince, had the challenge of overseeing the organisation of the Games, as first president of the National Olympic Committee.

He also took the initiative to raise the financial resources necessary for the reconstruction of the Stadium, after his father, King George I donated to the Greek Olympic Committee the very land where now the Panathenaikon Stadium stands.

He then went on to handle difficult negotiations with the representatives from France, Germany, Hungary, Russia, Sweden and his fellow countrymen.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin had a noble ideal. In Athens, in March 1894, he said and I quote: "This is the order of ideas, Gentlemen, from which I intend to draw the elements of moral strength which should guide and protect the revival of sport. Healthy democracy, wise and peaceful internationalism will enter the new stadium and preserve the cult of honour and unselfishness, that will allow sport to become an instrument of moral perfection and social peace, as well as muscular development". And as a former Olympic competitor, I can now appreciate how wise he was.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic Committee, has followed his ideal. He has, in the last 20 years, played the key role in a major regeneration that has taken place in the Olympic Movement, and has been personally responsible for its present high degree of unity.

Many changes have taken place in the last two years.

Our Executive Board now has 15 members from the five continents, including representatives from the summer and winter sports federations, the National Olympic Committees and athletes. Over 37 commissions and working groups, within which the IFs and NOCs are represented, have been set up over these years, enabling the subjects of concern to the Olympic Movement to be analysed in depth.

Creation of an Athletes' Commission and of the World Association of Olympians to address the specific issues that concern them. Since Atlanta in 1996, the athletes themselves have elected their own representatives to sit on the IOC Athletes' Commission and serve as IOC members. All of these elected athletes are 'active' athletes and must have competed within the previous two Olympic Games.

Sport for the disabled has also experienced well-deserved success. Following an IOC initiative, host cities now opt to organise Paralympic Games after the Olympic Games, making available all the sports infrastructure and providing financial support.

The IOC has set out with determination to broaden the scope of its action with regard to the environment and to make it the third dimension of Olympism after sport and culture.

13 women are serving as IOC members. The objective is: having women make up 20% of the structures of the Olympic Movement by the year 2005.

The Olympic Committees Solidarity programme will undoubtedly prove to be one of the elements that have reinforced this universality and promoted the practice of physical education and the values of Olympism in all regions of the world and in particular in the least well off countries. Olympic Solidarity will spend more than 200 million dollars on development programmes in the 2001-2004 period.

As you all very well know, the Greeks during the Olympic Games had EKECHERIA. This means TRUCE. This noble tradition was re-established in 1992, when the United Nations accepted an International Olympic Committee proposal for a truce, whenever Olympic Games are being held. The truce was supported during the Games in 1994 and 1996, and again in 1998, when it played a behind the scenes role in helping to buy time for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Iraq.

Since 1981, encouragement of a rapprochement through sport between South and North Korea. Success in 2000 at the Sydney Games, when the South and North Korea Olympic delegations marched together at the Opening Ceremony, behind the flag of the Korean peninsula.

Setting up the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Also setting up of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport, which is tasked with supervising and financing the Court, thereby giving if full independence vis-a-vis the IOC.

When the IOC was faced with a serious crisis, involving very few of its members not respecting the ethical code of conduct in the Salt Lake City (Utah, USA) bidding procedure to host the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, it took quick and concrete measures . The members were judged, seven were excluded from membership and others were reprimanded. The IOC 2000 Reform Commission was set up and its recommendations were approved by the Session and are now being implemented. The IOC also created an independent Ethics Commission composed of, amongst others, former Statesmen.

I would like to emphasize that without the quick and thorough work by the President and the members of the Executive Board, the Olympic Movement would have been in serious trouble.

The International Olympic Committee is now by itself the Olympic Movement , where all the components (IFs, NOCs, Athletes) are represented and work together for the benefit of the youth of the world and the well-being of society.

While the Games take place every four years, these committees and federations operate on a daily basis.

In September 1997, the International Olympic Committee selected Athens, my home city, to be the host city for the 2004 Olympic Games. The field comprised eleven worthy contenders, reduced to five during the preliminary round. Finalists included Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Rome, Stockholm and Athens. Each city had its strengths. Each city had its weaknesses.

Why do I believe Athens was the right choice? The city was chosen because the bid represented a good balance between sport, culture education and history. The people of Greece, strongly supported the bid and the Games. About 70% of the necessary installations were already in place. It was a momentous success for the city and for the country. Last week, all of the 28 International Summer Sports Federations gave total support to the programme proposed by ATHOC

There is, of course, still a lot of work to be done. I will not bore you with statistics, just a few figures that will help realize the size of this operation.

We must build new hotels, of the five star quality, with a total of 9,000 new beds as well as renovating about 50% of the already existing hotel rooms.

There will be a need for an additional 140,000 jobs as well as a need for 60,000 volunteers. The Athens 2004 Committee alone will employ a total of 3,000 people.

4,000 private cars and 2,000 busses will be in use for the needs of athletes, IOC members and other VIPs.

3,5 million breakfast, lunches and dinners have to be provided for by the Athens 2004 Committee.

At the same time, the Greek government is and will continue to build new roads, extend the Athens subway and reorganize and upgrade the whole traffic system in Athens.

Athens will be a new city by the time the first visitors arrive for the 2004 Olympic Games.

So, at the beginning of the new millennium, the Olympic Movement is at the forefront of sport. And sport is growing at unprecedented levels. Why? Because SPORT is different:

Sport is a common language: it talks to everyone, regardless of race, religion, sex or age. Sport is the common denominator. It breaks through barriers.

Sport is global: the media (television, newspapers, the Internet) is bringing the world together through its coverage.

Sport is entertainment.

Sport has become BIG business. According to Sponsorship Research International, global sponsorship spending will reach 19 billion dollars, about two and a half times higher than the total at the start of the previous decade.

As sport business in general has grown, so has the commercial side of the Olympic Games.

The necessity to generate revenues is immense and challenging. Because we cannot lose sight of the fact that the needs must be directed by sport - not only commerce.

The International Olympic Committee does not, nor has it ever, received government funding. As recently as 1980, the future of the Olympic Movement was uncertain, due to lack of financing. Few countries could afford to stage the Olympic Games, and many countries had difficulties in funding their Olympic Team.

All this has changed, especially after the very successful 1984 games in Los Angeles.

May I make some observations about sport and the Olympics:

The role of women in sport will continue to grow. One of the most important aspects of sport in the new century, will be the increase of women's participation in competitive sport and in administration. The 1996 Olympic Games, had more women athletes than any previous Games - 34% - and Sydney has set more records.

Environmental concerns will continue to grow. Protecting the environment will be a focal point of the policy of the Olympic Movement in the future.

The Olympic Movement is also engaged in a determined fight against doping, which is the very negation of sport and its role as we understand it. It is worthwhile for you to know that the International Olympic Committee started the fight against this scourge in the 1960s.

The International Olympic Committee created an independent agency, WADA. This agency is charged with handling testing, research and education of athletes, much in the same way that the Court of Arbitration for Sport provides an objective third-party resource for sport. WADA is composed of representatives of the Olympic Movement and governments.

I hope I don't sound patronizing, but I am speaking from the heart. I have served for over 40 years the Olympic Movement. In the IOC itself, there are two, possibly three members, which may have been there longer. I want to make one thing very clear. There is no going back to the period before the Commission 2000 was set up. We cannot, and must not, relax the new rules put in place.

We are going to Moscow in July to discuss many important issues, none more so than choosing the site for the 2008 Olympics, and of course, to choose our new President. Inevitably there will be changes, and there has to be. We must continue to evolve wisely.

Transparency in a democracy, is life.

Corruption in a democracy, is suicide.

The IOC members are honourable people and will support their new president, whoever she or he maybe. It is my hope that, whoever succeeds Juan Antonio Samaranch, will do certain important things during the changes that will inevitably follow:

1. Never hesitate to ask, and take his or her predecessor's advice.

2. Preserve and enhance the unity of this huge and very valuable family, called Olympic Movement.

3. Preserve and enhance a feeling within the IOC of a big united family where all members get to know well one another. This way, more consensus will materialize.

4. Avoid as much as possible the dominance of one region over the others.

5. Create more interaction between the Executive Board the members.

6. Guide the Olympic Movement to be more and more accountable to our constituency, which is the young athletes of today and tomorrow.

The Olympic Games is the oldest organised sporting event, and has managed to continually reinvent itself, to meet the changing times. As we are now into the new millennium, I would predict that this magic, will continue to offer inspiration to youth, be a force for unity, and act as a role model for dreams.

To achieve this, it will be essential to go back to the basic principles of Olympism: friendship, fairplay, brotherhood and personal achievement.

One of the pillars of the Olympic Movement is you, ladies and gentlemen of the press and the media in general. If this whole concept that we all love is to continue and flourish, it will do so with your help and support.

It is nice to see amongst you this evening, friends and colleagues from the IOC. Some of them were competitors in the Olympic Games.

I think all can testify that competing in the Olympics is a privilege, honour and fun. And I believe this is still so today. We must not forget the original principles of the Olympic Movement: team spirit and personal achievement. What is important is participation, not personal gain.

It was beautifully put by Aristotle, who said:

'At the Olympic Games, it is not the finest and the strongest men who are crowned, but they who enter the lists'

Because when you think about it, to be an Olympic athlete, is to be an Olympic winner.

The return of the Games to their birthplace, gives me great hope that this idealism can be achieved.

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