Pierre de Courbertin

Born into the French aristocracy in 1863, Pierre de Coubertin could have chosen most any path for his career from politics to high ranking military positions, but chose to pursue learning and intellectual pursuits. During the late 19th century higher education was still heavily focused on Classical learning ( Greek and Roman culture ) and Baron de Coubertin was influenced and inspired by the Ancient Olympics and the idea that athletic competition between nations could breed familiarity and respect that would create a more peaceful world. Coubertin believed that trying was more important than winning and tried to place the importance of the events on the competition and less on the results.

While there were smaller “Olympic” style games hosted in Greece and England, but they were not international competitions that we would recognize as Olympics. Coubertin started working on organizing a Congress in 1888 and it was held in 1894 in Paris. At the Congress the attendees worked to organize the revival of the Olympics, its philosophy, and how it should function. The International Olympic Committee was formed later but as a result of the events of the Congress and Coubertin would be the second President of the IOC after Demetrius Vikelas, a Greek member who pushed for the 1896 games to be held in Athens.

Coubertin would head the IOC as President until 1924 by which time it had come to be a successful and popular movement. Coubertin won a gold medal for literature at the 1912 Games in Antwerp for his poem¬†Ode to Sport. The highest honor that can be bestowed by the IOC is known as the Coubertin Medal and is given to “those athletes that demonstrate the spirit of sportsmanship in the Olympic Games”