After 10 months and 3,000 miles, Conservative peer Lord Bates today completed his intrepid journey across Europe on foot - all in the name of promoting the Olympic Truce. Over the course of his travels, which began in Olympia, Bates met with Pope Benedict XVI, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.
The Olympic Truce dates back to ancient Greece where it served to encourage peace before and during the Games so that athletes and spectators could travel safely to and from the Games. Last year, the UK sponsored a UN resolution on the Olympic Truce which gained the co-sponsorship of all 193 UN Member states. The resolution asks member states to promote the ideals of the Olympic Truce, throughout this year’s Olympics and more generally. Bates embarked on his six and half million steps across Europe in order to raise its profile.
Speaking to Total Politics Bates moved to chastise the behaviour of President Assad’s government in Syria. He said he wanted to remind President Assad that “on October the 17th, he and his government signed the resolution for the Olympic Truce, saying that they would pursue initiatives for peace and reconciliation ... I’d like to see how he intends to mark that!” However, when pushed on whether he would support intervention, notwithstanding his advocacy of the values and ideals of the Truce, he said “we have to look at these things, but I think the key thing is always to make sure you’ve exhausted all other possible avenues”.
The FCO have called the Truce a ‘very important way of promoting conflict resolution across the world’ and Seb Coe lauded Bates’ campaign as inspirational “both in the House of Lords, and to all of us at the London 2012 Organising Committee”.
Bates told Total Politics: “people have been welcoming me back in different ways – some think I’m Phileas Fogg, I think my kids think I’m Forrest Gump, and as far as the Whips’ Office is concerned I’m probably the prodigal son”. Given his 320 day absence from the House, it’s likely most in the Lords will consider his last point particularly apposite.