While I was watching a video of the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics last week, I thought I spotted (at approx. 16:30) UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon in the same row and a few seats away from Putin.
Since Russia is the host country, it certainly made sense for Putin to be there. But Ki-Moon? What in the name of Gaia’s good green earth would he be doing in the grandstand?! OK, so he did a colourful photo-op stint carrying the Olympic Torch on Feb. 6; but what makes him more special than any of the thousands of other torch-bearers along the way?
He was definitely in town to grace the Opening with his smiling, scripted presence. Of course no mention was made of the mode of transportation used to spirit him from UN Headquarters to Sochi. Nor does anyone seem to be tracking his cumulative “carbon footprint” as he traverses the planet delivering the latest and greatest UN slogan of the day!
I’m sure you’ll never guess the message he was flogging during this (no doubt “unprecedented”) address to this particular gathering of the high and mighty of the IOC.
Opening remarks at joint press conference with Mr. Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee
It is a great honour and privilege for me to participate in the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympic Games. What an exciting time for me to be in Sochi! I am thrilled to be here. […] You can count on the United Nations and on myself, and we can build upon all the foundations and legacies which have been laid down.
[IOC] President Bach is building on the fine work of former and Honorary IOC President Jacques Rogge, who succeeded in elevating the IOC to observer status at the United Nations and left a lasting legacy of cooperation. Just one example – in February 2012, President Rogge and I made an unprecedented joint visit to Lusaka, Zambia, to see the power of sport for development and peace. […]
And, as you just saw, I had the privilege of addressing the Olympic Session for the first time as the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
This all reflects the increasingly strong and productive partnership between the United Nations and the IOC. We share the same values, including universality, solidarity and non-discrimination.
The Olympics give us an opportunity to celebrate everyone’s right to compete on equal terms – no matter what they look like, where they come from or whom they love.
We can build on the Olympic Truce movement, too. I repeat my call once again for all armed combatants to lay down their arms during these Olympic Games. This is a moment of peace and harmony and mutual understanding and mutual respect.
Many United Nations agencies work directly with the IOC to fight racism, combat AIDS and drug abuse, protect the environment and to promote education. We also work together to advance the Millennium Development Goals, which must be reached by 2015. I am sure that work will continue as we define the sustainable development agenda that must follow the MDGs, including how to tackle climate change.
The convening power of the United Nations and global reach of the Olympic movement make a dynamic global duo. [emphasis added -hro]
So that was the Press Conference. If you’re curious to know what actual pearls of wisdom Ki-Moon had bestowed upon his (no doubt enchanted) audience at the 128th Session of the IOC, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), parent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – and creator and promulgator of scary stories since 1972 – has archived them for posterity.
Here are some excerpts from the words of the Great Leader of the UN half of this “global dynamic duo”, which – considering his “theme” – are to my mind far more notable for what they did not contain than for that which they did.
Sports can help advance human rights.
Last year, the United Nations marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by focusing on the power of sport. We are all aware of the need to combat ugly and hurtful racist displays at sporting matches.
And this past December, the theme of Human Rights Day was “Sport comes out against homophobia.”
Many professional athletes, gay and straight, are speaking out against prejudice.
We are working hard to bring in relief supplies to all people affected by this horrible conflict [in Syria] – and to end it through a political solution. We are striving to address many other cases of senseless violence in our world, to heal those who have suffered and to prevent future outbreaks of conflict. The Olympic movement is our great partner in this effort.
The United Nations will continue to partner with the IOC to build a better, freer and more equal world. [emphasis added -hro]
Can you remember the last time that the UN actually succeeded (if it even seriously tried) in ending a conflict or “case of senseless violence”? No? Sadly, nor can I.
But speaking of “senseless violence”, the UN and the IOC … I might have missed it, but I don’t recall seeing or hearing any hint of concern (in fact, not even a mention) on the part of Ki-Moon regarding the disgraceful decision of the IOC (the “great partner” and other half of this “dynamic global duo”) as recently as 2012 during the London Summer Olympics, when – as reported by (amongst others) Bill Plaschke in the L.A. Times – it became quite well-known that:
The International Olympic Committee says the opening ceremony of the London Games isn’t a ‘fit’ setting to mark deaths of 11 Israeli athletes. Those who disagree will defiantly stand as IOC chief Jacques Rogge speaks.
Rogge is president of an International Olympic Committee that steadfastly has refused to allow the memory of the massacred Munich 11 to be part of the opening ceremony. Not once since that September day in 1972 has the IOC given the massacre’s survivors the honor or comfort of even one second of solemnity during the important and symbolic opening night.
Plaschke concluded by noting:
I’ll be standing. I’ll be silent. And for that entire minute, I’ll be noting the shame that will surround Rogge as he speaks of the Olympic spirit while clearly violating it.
Why can’t the IOC just give them that one minute? It’s politics, of course. There is no outfit more political than the IOC, backroom deal makers in altruistic clothing. Their Olympic vision has become as much about money and power as fairness and competition.
Simply, and disgracefully, the IOC won’t honor the fallen Israeli athletes at the opening ceremony because they don’t want to anger the nearly 50 Arab and predominantly Muslim countries that are also competing in the Games. [emphasis added -hro]
On the “political outfits” as “backroom deal makers in altruistic clothing” front, I’m inclined to disagree with Plaschke: The view from here, so to speak, is that any match between the IOC and the UN would unequivocally (and incontrovertibly) end in a photo-finish tie.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I recognize how similar the “foundations and legacies” – and “values” – of the ‘great partners’ in this “dynamic global duo” really are.
It’s certainly common knowledge that both the IOC and the UN have $candal$ galore in their respective billion dollar closets. Both are equally adept at simulating action on much needed reforms and seem to share a deeply ingrained culture of “Do as I say, but not as I do”.
On the finance front, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the IOC is definitely the “junior partner” in this “dynamic global duo”. I could not find a recent budget for the IOC, but eventually I did find some financial statements. So in the following comparisons, I regret that we must compare the UN’s (approved) budget with the IOC’s (published) actuals.
The UN’s “Regular Budget 2012-2013” – which does not include its peacekeeping budget, except when it does, indicates that:
The General Assembly approved the programme (regular) budget for 2012-2013 in the amount of US$ 5,152 billion (resolution 66/248). The proposal includes US$ 1,083 million in respect of special political missions that are expected to be extended or approved during the course of the biennium.
Areas of increased expenditures are a direct result of additional mandates and priorities set by Member States, including:
• Strengthening the Peacebuilding Support Office
• Strengthening the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
• New initiatives to strengthen the Rule of Law activities
• Administration of justice
• Activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services
• Strategic Heritage Plan at the United Nations Office at Geneva
• Strengthening the Development Pillar (Parts IV and V)
• DPA strengthening
Looks like they forgot about the “strengthening” of Achim Steiner’s ever-expanding empire, the UNEP. But maybe that’s included in the peacekeeping budget (as opposed to the peacebuilding budget). But who knows, eh?! Could even be included in the “sports” budget – which must be included somewhere since Ki-Moon has already pronounced on “the power of sport for development and peace”.
As for the IOC, in an article in the Feb. 14 edition of Canada’s National Post about the IOC’s considerably less than medal-worthy past (and present), I found:
Raking in more than US$3-billion in 2012, the International Olympic Committee distributes its largesse through a bewildering number of outlets, with the bulk of the money going to national Olympic committees. And though broadcasting brings in the lion’s share of revenue, broadcasting costs have also soared, making up an increasingly large part of spending.
There are parts of this same article which reminded me of some behavioural patterns and characteristics of the IPCC – and/or its UNEP “parent” and/or its UN “grandparent”. Here’s one:
Although governments contribute cash to the Olympics, the IOC is private. It receives billions in revenue that critics say are not subject to enough scrutiny.
“Because it’s a private organization — they are not funded by the government or by the public — they don’t have any obligation to give information or be transparent,” said Jean-Loup Chappelet, a professor at the graduate school of public administration at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and one of the few academics to study the IOC’s governance.
No “obligation to give information or be transparent”?! Perhaps this was the “model” (notwithstanding all claims and protestations to the contrary) for the IPCC’s repeated pattern of responses and behaviours – both past and present.
So … When considering the foundations, legacies and values of the UN (and its offspring, particularly the IPCC) and those of the IOC, do we have a case of “Mendacity loves company”? Or simply a case of ‘You keep silent about our scandals and hypocrisy, and we’ll keep silent about yours’? Or perhaps both?!