North East peer Lord Bates takes on Olympic Truce walk

Much of the focus of the Olympics so far has been on the tickets (I haven't got any as yet - but I'm not bitter, Lord Coe).

Image caption Lord Bates has set out on a 3,000-mile walk from Olympia in Greece

But one North East politician has been concentrating on a different and less well-known aspect of the games.

It's the Olympic Truce.

Yes, I wouldn't blame you for not having heard about it. Nobody seems to take it too seriously.

It dates back though to the original games in the 9th Century BC.

The truce allowed any participants in the Olympics and their relatives to travel to and from them in peace.

The idea was revived in 1993, when the United Nations passed Resolution 48/11.

Conflicts continue

It committed countries to observe a truce from a week before the opening of each games, to a week after.

It also says the host country should bring forward a resolution before each games to suggest how peace and reconciliation can happen during the truce period.

Of course, the truce has never actually worked since 1993, even though all UN members are signed up to it. Conflicts have continued throughout the games.

So the North East Conservative peer and former Teesside MP Michael Bates is trying to give all countries a bit of a nudge.

He's set out on a 3,000-mile walk from Olympia in Greece, to London, to try and highlight the truce.

Meaningful resolution

You could dismiss him as mad. He's a few hundred miles into the walk, and so far there is no sign that countries involved in conflict are prepared to do anything about it.

But Lord Bates is on the road for a year, so there's plenty of time for him to at least gain publicity for his campaign.

He's hoping his walk will press the UK government to bring forward a meaningful resolution which could set out how the truce can actually mean something, instead of a vague commitment which everyone signs and then forgets.

He would like the truce to happen, and last for 100 days either side of the Olympics.

Image caption There's been much focus on Olympic tickets for 2012, but not much on the truce

He said: "I have decided to walk over 3,000 miles in the hope that we can persuade all signatories to the truce to do just one thing - to implement it.

"Not only would this bring the flame of hope into conflict zones around the world, it would mean that we would rediscover the central purpose of the Ancient Games which was to provide for a pause in the endless cycle of violence through the observance of the Sacred Truce.

"If they could do it 3,000 years ago, then surely we can do it now."

Full marks

And he says that in ancient history, there are records of only one or two breaches of the truce over 1,200 years. (Although some historians dispute that.)

With conflicts in so many countries, it does seem a forlorn hope. I suspect I have more chance of getting tickets for the 100 metres final.

Full marks though for Lord Bates trying to do something about it.

And it does seem ironic that while our ancient and supposedly less civilised ancestors made it work, the 21st Century participants in the Olympics can't.