All the Presidents of the International Olympic Committee

29 June, 2020
Since its creation in 1984, there have been nine presidents of the International Olympic Committee, with different nationalities, backgrounds and philosophies.
 

The IOC was founded in 1894 to recreate the games of Ancient Greece. Since then, there have been nine presidents of the International Olympic Committee, each with different nationalities, backgrounds, and philosophies. Read on to find out more about them!

Who were presidents of the International Olympic Committee?

Since its creation, nine men have had the honor of being the president of the IOC. Let’s start at the beginning:

1. Dimitrios Vikelas (1894-1896)

Obviously, the first president of the International Olympic Committee had to be Greek. Pierre de Coubertin chose the businessman and writer because of his great reputation and his career as a writer and historian.

Vikelas lived in Paris and represented his country at the first meetings about organizing the modern Olympic Games. With a Greek man at the helm of the movement, the committee decided that Athens would be the venue for the first games in 1896. However, once the Games were over, Vikelas stepped down from his position.

2. Pierre de Coubertin (1896-1925)

Pierre de Coubertin is the longest-serving president on this list, holding the position for 29 years. His name is synonymous with modern games but before the creation of the modern Olympics, he was already a successful teacher and historian.

Pierre de Coubertin.
Pierre de Coubertin. Image: lavanguardia.com
 

He was born in France but trained in England, and he was one of the first people to link spirituality with sports and hygiene. His idea of ​​creating a competition that brought together athletes from all over the world might have seemed crazy at the time, but it’s thanks to him that we now have the Olympic Games every four years. He became IOC president after the first games in Athens and remained in office until 1925.

3. Henri de Baillet-Latour (1925-1942): presidents of the International Olympic Committee

This Belgian aristocrat was the third president of the International Olympic Committee but had already been a member of the committee since 1903. He was in charge of founding the Belgian Olympic Committee and organizing the Antwerp Olympic Games in 1920. He remained president until his death in 1942.

4. Sigfrid Edström (1946-1952)

Edström was Baillet-Latour’s vice president and succeeded him when he passed away. He was a Swedish industrialist, director of the electrical engineering company ASEA, and also a top sprinter.

As well as being president of the IOC, he was also involved in sports administration in Sweden, helped organize the 1912 Games, and played a part in creating the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF).

He was a member of the IOC from 1920 and, during his tenure as president, he played a major role in reviving the games after World War II.

5. Avery Brundage (1952-1972)

As you might have seen by now, the presidents of the International Olympic Committee tend to serve fairly long terms. Brundage’s was no exception, lasting 20 years.

 
Avery Brundage giving a speech.
Image: stripes.com/

Brundage was an athlete and sports leader from the United States and was president of the American Olympic Committee. He’s most famously remembered for opposing the boycott of the 1936 games organized by Nazi Germany.

Brundage also caused great controversy by refusing to suspend the 1972 Munich Games following the murder of eleven Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists. He retired from office at the age of 85.

6. Michael Morris, 3rd Baron Killanin (1972-1980): presidents of the International Olympic Committee

Killanin was an Irish journalist, war correspondent, sports official, and Baron in the United Kingdom. In 1938, Killanin achieved the rank of Major in the British Army and later took part in the planning of D-Day.

Before becoming president of the International Olympic Committee, he was the Irish representative to the IOC and then later vice-president. During his tenure, he suffered many setbacks, such as the financial failure of Montreal 1976 and the boycotts of the Moscow games in 1980.

7. Juan Antonio Samaranch y Torelló (1980-2001)

Samaranch was another long-serving president, with 21 years in office. He was a businessman, politician, and member of the Spanish nobility.  He fought in the Spanish Civil War and, after the war, studied business whilst practicing hockey, boxing, and soccer.

 
Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Image: rfi.es

He also worked as a sports journalist and president of the Spanish Federation of Sports on Ice. The 1992 games in Barcelona took place during his tenure. In 2001, he chose not to stand for re-election and the IOC named him honorary president for life.

8. Jacques Rogge (2001-2013)

This Belgian athlete had competed in sailing events in three games and was also an orthopedic surgeon. He was president of the Belgian Olympic Committee and became a member of the IOC in 1991.

Over the course of his tenure, he worked hard to reduce the necessary budget of the competition and created a program to fight doping, corruption, violence, and racism at the games.

9. Thomas Bach (2013-present)

The current president of the International Olympic Committee is a German lawyer and a former Olympic fencer. He won a gold medal at Montreal 1976 in the foil category.

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.
Image: NY Times.
 

In 2013, Bach confirmed his candidacy for the presidency and won an election for an eight-year term. In 2016, he received criticism in the wake of the Russian doping scandal and faced accusations of sympathizing with Vladimir Putin. Nonetheless, he was able to hold on to his position and is still serving today.

The IOC is clearly an institution with a rich history and full of characters that have helped to progress international sport. Every one of them has helped to create and perpetuate the four-yearly event that we all know and love today!

 
  • The International Olympic Committee. Who we are. https://www.olympic.org/about-ioc-olympic-movement
  • International Olympic Committee. Encyclopaedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/International-Olympic-Committee
  • TN. Thomas Bach es el nuevo presidente del COI. Septiembre 2013. https://tn.com.ar/deportes/politica/thomas-bach-es-el-nuevo-presidente-del-coi_410391
  • MARCA. Thomas Bach: “El deporte es una oportunidad de sanar, desarrollarse y crecer”. Diciembre 2019. https://www.marca.com/claro-mx/juegos-olimpicos/2019/12/17/5df9350ee2704e81478b45b2.html