Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

The United Nations' Attitude to Olympic Peace

Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

The United Nations' Attitude to Olympic Peace

Article excerpt

The Olympic Congresses in Varna 1973 and Copenhagen 2009

From 30 September to 4 October 1973, the 10th Olympic Congress was celebrated in Varna, Bulgaria. Only one year after the terror attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, the overall motto "Sport for A Peaceful World" was nolens volens well chosen. (1) In Varna, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) held an Olympic Congress again after a break of 43 years. The one which preceded it was staged in 1930 in Berlin. The Berlin congress organizers, including chiefly Theodor Lewald and Carl Diem, (2) respectively President and General Secretary of the German Olympic Committee, used the opportunity to promote Berlin's bid for the Games of the XIth Olympiad. (3) Besides Berlin, numerous other cities, including Alexandria, Barcelona, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Cologne, Dublin, Frankfurt (Main), Helsinki, Nuremberg and Rome also applied to host the Olympic Games in 1936. (4) The IOC wanted to elect the host city at its 29th Session which was scheduled for 1931 in Barcelona. By the time of the session, only Barcelona and Berlin were left in the race, all the other cities having withdrawn their candidacy. As a consequence of the unstable political situation in Spain and violent upheaval in Barcelona only 20 of the then 67 IOC members attended the Session. The election of the 1936 host city had to be postponed and was organized by postal ballot. 43 IOC members voted for Berlin, 16 for Barcelona, and 8 decided to abstain from voting. (5)

But why was there such a long break between Olympic congresses? Unlike previous congresses, the event in Berlin finished without concrete plans for the organization of the next one. Aside from organizational shortcomings, there is also one political reason. In Berlin the IOC implemented a Council of Delegates and, of course, invited the International Federations (IFs) to send representatives to it. For the IFs it was a way to recognize their standing in the Olympic Movement even though they were not offered full and permanent IOC membership. This Council of Delegates convened for the first time as early as 30 October 1930. This was a clear indication that the IOC was serious about this organisation which potentially had great value. The IOC president could summon it when necessary if technical issues concerning the Olympic Games had to be discussed. Previously, this had been done at Olympic Congresses, but achieving consensus in this environment had proved difficult. Against this background the IOC now no longer saw the necessity for Olympic Congresses. (6) But the IOC could not get away with this strategy forever. At the 67th IOC Session which was held in Mexico City in 1968, then IOC president Avery Brundage noted " ... that most of the NOCs as well as the IFs would like to have an Olympic Congress. Although no decision could be taken at such a Congress, it might be a good idea from a social point of view to re-establish contacts." (7)

Originally, it was planned to hold the Olympic Congress in Sofia in 1971. This was postponed to 1973 and the venue was switched to Varna. This was not simply done to allow the organisers two more years in which to prepare. In 1973 the Bulgarian National Olympic Committee was due to celebrate its 50th anniversary which could be recognised in conjunction with the Olympic congress. (8) The Varna congress, chaired by the newly installed IOC President Lord Killanin, was of political importance for the IOC and the governance of the Olympic Movement in two respects:

1 Killanin's predecessor Avery Brundage had stressed the leading role of the IOC in Olympic sport and even beyond. Although he ensured the flow of information between the IOC and the IFs and NOCs by so-called circular letters and regular Executive Board Meetings there was no real interest in an exchange of ideas between the IOC and the other governing bodies of sport. By the midsixties the NOCs and IFs were organising themselves to act more powerfully against the IOC. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.