Pierre de Coubertin

Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) was a French educationalist. He admired the English private schools, which attached great importance to physical education, and he wanted to introduce their practice in French schools. Out of educational interest he visited many English and American schools and universities. On one of his journeys he met with William Brookes, who organized local Olympic games and dreamt of making them international. Inspired by Brookes and by the archaeological excavations of Olympia around 1880, de Coubertin conceived in 1892 the idea of organizing international Olympic games, every four years in a different city. In 1894 he organized in Paris the congress at which the International Olympic Committee was founded.

Though de Coubertin revived an ancient institution, he did not idealize Antiquity. He wanted modern games with modern sports. The references to Antiquity in the modern games, for example the marathon and the Olympic flame, were not his idea. The only things he wanted to import from Antiquity to the modern age were the moral values, such as honesty, respect, justice and excellence.

From 1896 to 1924 Pierre de Coubertin was president of the IOC. He remained honorary president until 1937, when he died, sitting on a bench in the park of Lausanne. His heart was buried in Olympia.

© KU Leuven, 2012