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The 54th International Session for Young Participants of the International Olympic Academy began on the sacred Hill of the Pnyx with a modest but glorious ceremony.

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Dr Thomas Bach, and H.E. the First Lady of the Republic of Ajerbaijan as well as President of the Organising Committee for the European Games “Baku 2015”, Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva attended the ceremony. In addition, the ceremony attended the Minister of Culture, Mr Konstantinos Tasoulas, the Under-Secretary of Culture, Mrs Angela Gkerekou, the ex-Prime-Minister, Mr Panagiotis Pikrammenos, the President of the “Elpida” Association and UNESCO Good Will Ambassador, Mrs Marianna Vardinoyannis,  the Members of the Parliament, Mrs Dora Mpakogianni and Mr Pyrros Dimas as well as the President of Olympiakos F.C., Mr Vangelis Marinakis, who, for the next three years, will cover the expenses of the Master’s Degree Programme on Olympic Studies organized by the IOA in collaboration with the University of Peloponnese.

During the ceremony, honorary distinctions of the International Olympic Academy were awarded to H.E. the First Lady of the Republic of Ajerbaijan, Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva as well as to Mr Peter Tallberg and Prof. Dr Jim Parry for their contribution to the cultivation, development and propagation of the Olympic Ideals.

Mrs Aliyeva mentioned that it is a great honour to receive a distinction from the International Olympic Academy and stressed that the Organising Committee for the European Games “Baku 2015” will do its best and she invited all of us in Baku for the European Games.

200 participants from 96 countries will attend the Session that will take place at the IOA Premises in Ancient Olympia and will end on June 28th. The basic subject of the Session is “Olympic Values” and the special subject is “Olympic Values: Respect for Diversity”.

Upon the conclusion of the works of the Session, the young participants who will have attended it, will become the ideal ambassadors of the Olympic movement worldwide, propagating the Olympic values in their countries.

The President of the International Olympic Academy, Mr Isidoros Kouvelos, underlined that “Coubertin believed that the Olympic Movement should not deviate from these educational objectives. He used to say: “I believe that a Centre for Olympic Studies would contribute, above all, to the maintenance and continuation of my work, protecting it from any deviations, which I fear will arise”.

This institution is the International Olympic Academy, which converts through its actions the vision of the great reviver into reality, in a place which he worshipped and asked that his heart be buried in after his death, in Ancient Olympia. Today, the IOA represents the only authentic cradle of Olympic education worldwide and the IOC recognizes the importance of

its existence in its Charter. More than 80,000 young men and women, scientists and researchers, athletes and students have participated, since 1961, in its activities and become the best ambassadors of Olympism and Greek Olympic tradition, all over the world.

The International Olympic Academy operates as an umbrella organization for the 146 National Olympic Academies, which cooperate closely with it, their objective being to disseminate the Olympic values more effectively. Governments and national educational systems have to listen to these messages, believe in the power that they generate and facilitate their work”.

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Mr Thomas Bach, declared the opening of the 54th International Session for Young Participants and pointed out that “My view of the Olympic Movement is reflected in my motto, “unity in diversity.” And this is one of the great virtues of the Olympic Games.

The Games prove that people from different backgrounds, cultures, religions and traditions can come together in harmony.

There is no better example of this than the Olympic Village. The Olympic Village embodies the concept of unity in diversity. From my own experience as an Olympian, it is one of the most moving and memorable aspects of participating in the Games. It is where the Olympic spirit lives.

By competing with respect for their opponents and by living together in peace, Olympians set an example for the entire world.

All of you can also set an example for others. This 54th International Session for Young Participants has brought together some of the best and brightest young people from around the world to learn more about the Olympic Movement and Olympic values.

The International Olympic Academy, its President Isidoros Kouvelos, the Ephoria members, and the teachers and lecturers, have prepared an excellent programme.”

The President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Mr Spyros Capralos, mentioned that: “This year in particular, with the special subject of the 54th Session being “Olympic values: respect for diversity”, we have the opportunity to further promote the key messages of Olympism, such as fellowship, solidarity, recognition of the value of one’s opponent, irrespective of race, gender, nationality or origin. At our times, unfortunately, discrimination is on the rise, in full sight and takes many forms.

The victims of discrimination are not only individuals or groups of people which are considered to be “different” because of race, colour, gender, language, religious or political convictions, social origin, financial status, and unfortunately, any disability they may have.

History has repeatedly shown that when discrimination, inequality and intolerance have found roots, they can destroy the very foundations of society, cross borders and poison the relations among nations with disastrous consequences.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are an ideal example, where respect for diversity and cooperation are absolutely necessary for their success.”

The Minister of Culture, Mr Konstantinos Tasoulas, represented the State underlining that: “Every year, on the historic Hill of Pnyx, the future ambassadors of the Olympic Movement who will continue to serve the lofty values of Olympism and keep alive the flame of the Olympic Movement in the future are gathered. This session, enhances each year the timeless contribution of Olympism to our modern civilization, showing us the important role of the International Olympic Academy, a unique cultural institution, a place of dialogue and exchange of ideas.”