Brief History of the International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee has the mission of organizing all the Olympic Games, both for summer and winter.
Brief History of the International Olympic Committee

Last update: 16 March, 2020

With more than 120 years of history, the International Olympic Committee is the entity that’s responsible for promoting the Olympic spirit throughout the world. It’s also in charge of organizing the modern Olympic Games. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the IOC.

The beginnings of the International Olympic Committee

Before talking about the International Olympic Committee, we must make a reference to its creator, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He was a French historian and pedagogue who was very interested in ‘reviving’ those religious and sports celebrations of Ancient Greece that we all know as the Olympic Games.

Although people at the time though that Coubertin was a fool, the truth is that thanks to him, we now have one of the biggest sporting events in the world every four years.

And not only that, but this man was also the creator of the International Olympic Committee on June 23, 1894. In its beginnings, only 12 countries were a part of the IOC; those countries were Argentina, Austria-Bohemia, Belgium, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Greece, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, and Sweden.

The first authorities

A curious fact about the foundation of the International Olympic Committee is that the first president wasn’t exactly Coubertin. It was actually a Greek citizen Dimitrios Vikelas. This businessman and writer was also in charge of organizing the first Modern Olympic Games, Athens 1896.

After this event, the Baron took on the president title and remained in power until 1925, a period in which he organized no less than seven Olympic Games. A Belgian man named Henri de Baillet-Latour (1925-1942) succeeded him.

The other IOC presidents were Sigfrid Edstrom (146-1952) from Sweden, Avery Brundage (1952-1972) from America, Michael Morris Killanin (1972-1980) from Ireland, Juan Antonio Samaranch (1980-2001) from Spain, Jacques Rogge (2001-2013) from Belgium, and Thomas Bach (since 2013) from Germany.

The Olympic Games logo at a sports event

The headquarters of the Committee are located in the Swiss city of Lausanne, known as the Olympic capital. There’s also a museum about the Olympics in that same city.

Functions of the International Olympic Committee

The main task of the International Olympic Committee is to organize the Olympic Games (the first edition took place in Athens 1896); there have been Olympic Games every four years ever since (except during both World Wars).

The IOC is also in charge of organizing the Winter Olympic Games, which happened for the first time in Chamonix (France), 1924. And we can’t forget about the Youth Olympic Games, for athletes who are between 15 and 18 years old. These games are the newest modality since they’ve taken place since 2010 during the summer and 2012 during the winter.

Since its foundation, the IOC has regular meetings at its headquarters in Switzerland. The two main activities of these meetings are congresses and sessions.

During the congresses, the members discuss issues related to the Olympic movement, the history and the future of the games. From 1894 to date, there have been 13 congresses held in irregular periods of time.

As for the sessions, they take place once a year. Each IOC member has one vote in order to decide or take certain actions. In addition to that, there are also regular sessions to resolve outstanding issues.

These are some of the activities that take place during those days:

  • The Olympic Charter is adapted or modified
  • The members of the Olympic Committee are chosen (for example, honorary positions)
  • Election of the president, vice president, and other executive members
  • Decide what the next venue for the Olympic Games is going to be
  • Determine which sports are part of the Olympic calendar
A woman jumping during the Olympic games

Other IOC tasks

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the International Olympic Committee supports different sports organizations by supervising them. Among them, we can highlight the committees and associations in charge of organizing continental games (Pan-African, Pan-American, Asian, European and Pacific).

Finally, the IOC is responsible for awarding different honors to competitors each year. Some of them are the IOC President’s trophy for the athlete who has excelled in their discipline, the Pierre de Coubertin medal for those who demonstrate the Olympic spirit, the Olympic Cup for institutions that develop the Olympic movement, an Olympic certificate for individuals contributing to the Olympic movement, and the Olympic Laurel for people who promote peace through sports.

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