Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou (L) presents the 2019 Cem-Papandreou International Peace Award to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach in Athens, Greece, June 3, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach received the 2019 Cem-Papandreou International Peace Award in a ceremony hosted in Athens on Monday, for his initiatives to promote peace through sports.
The award was established in 2015 to consolidate the legacy of Turkey's late Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and George Papandreou, former Greece's Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The two men led efforts aimed at improving the relationship between the two neighboring countries in what seemed like a "mission impossible in Hollywood terms", current Greek Foreign Minister George Katrougalos noted, addressing the event.
Eventually the two sides proved that friendship and peace between Turkey and Greece is attainable.
Thomas Bach was presented with the award on Monday by George Papandreou for his leadership with vision for the Olympic movement and in particularly his efforts to promote peace since he was elected IOC president in 2013.
"Sports is what brings the people together, generally and more specifically in the framework of the Olympic Games," Katrougalos said.
The award was created to honor those dedicated to the values that unite the world, Papandreou said on his part.
"It is meant to recognize those who actively contribute towards a secure, peaceful world," he said, explaining that the idea was born in 2001.
As Foreign Ministers at the time, Papandreou and Cem visited the island of Samos in the Aegean Sea and planted an olive tree together, a symbol of peace.
Ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, Cem and Papandreou co-signed a statement supporting IOC's and UN's call for an Olympic truce during the Games, he recalled.
That statement was also signed by former US President Bill Clinton, late South African leader Nelson Mandela, late Israeli President Simon Peres, late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the then foreign ministers of China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and over 40 heads of European governments, Papandreou told the audience.
"Today we honor the President of IOC Thomas Bach for his commitment and work for a more peaceful world. Thomas Bach gave modern meaning to the ancient Greek idea of Olympic Truce," Papandreou said.
He praised Bach for his key role in promoting peace, for the inclusion of a refugees' team in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and for the participation of a joint DPR Korea-South Korea team in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.
"Initiatives like the Cem-Papandreou peace award are even more relevant today, given the challenges of confrontation, polarization and identity politics worldwide. We hope that the award will also inspire new generations who will champion and prioritize peace and coexistence," Ipek Cem-Taha, Cem's daughter, stressed in a videotaped message.
The story of Papandreou-Cem is connected in many ways to what the Olympic Games are all about, Bach said in his acceptance speech.
"It is about overcoming obstacles, achieving the impossible. It is about bringing people together. It is about the most precious human value. It is about peace," he said.
"Our mission today is to uphold the ideals and values of the ancient Olympic Games and adapt them to modern age," he underlined.
"The Olympic Games cannot prevent wars and conflicts, but by bringing all people together in peaceful competition, the Olympic Games show us what the world could look like," Bach concluded.