International Olympic Academy

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International Olympic Academy
Abbreviation IOA
Formation June 14, 1961; 55 years ago (1961-06-14)
Legal status legal entity of private law, supervised by the Greek Ministry of Culture under the patronage of the IOC
Headquarters 52, Dimitrios Vikelas Avenue
152 33 Halandri - Athens

The International Olympic Academy is the main international educational and cultural institution that, within the context of action of the International Olympic Committee, aims to promote the Olympic Ideals and to develop the Olympic Education. These aims are achieved through the organization of certain activities like the Annual International Sessions of Young Participants, of the National Olympic Academies and of the International Postgraduate Seminar. Additionally, along with the rest of the Sessions that are organized every two years, like the Olympic Medalists, the Educators and the Journalists.

Simultaneously, the IOA in cooperation with the University of Peloponnese and thanks to the kind sponsorship of the John Latsis Foundation organizes an International Postgraduate Program for Olympic Studies (Master’s Degree Program) that lasts two years.

The IOA premises are in the center of the Ancient Olympia archaeological site, where the Olympic Games and the idea and the philosophy of life of Olympism were born and developed, as the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, renovator of the modern Olympic Games, underlines.

The IOA premises in Ancient Olympia consists of a contemporary and fully equipped Auditorium of 500 seats, a room for general presentations of 250 seats, 5 teaching rooms, a library with more than 16.000 book titles, a restaurant and accommodation rooms for one and two persons as well as dormitories for eight persons with air conditions, toilets and bathrooms. The accommodation rooms are plain and simple and they combine in the best possible way the direct contact of the visitor with the nature, the learning and research.

The founder of the contemporary Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, had very timely diagnosed the need for an Olympic institution of a spiritual nature. He believed that the Olympic Movement should not deviate from its educational objectives and had written: “I have not been able to carry out to the end what I wanted to achieve. I believe that a center of Olympic Studies would contribute, more than anything else, to the preservation and continuation of my work and would protect it from the deviations, which I am afraid will happen”.

This institution would be responsible for the research, the philosophy and the principles of Olympism, the study of the means and methods for the realization and the application of its ideas in our continuously progressing contemporary world. Additionally, it would undertake the education of the appropriate staff, a staff which would be in a position to drive Olympism towards the correct direction, in accordance with the social developments of the times, without, however, mutating the basic lines of the Olympic ideals and the aims of Pierre de Coubertin.

It is widely known that Coubertin wished to convey the Olympic idea to the contemporary world, as a means of education. He, therefore, restored the Olympic Games, for he recognized the fact that, through the Games, he would be able to attract the interest of both public opinion and governments, so that the Olympic principles and ideals would eventually be applied to the general education of the young. According to Coubertin, Olympism has a philosophical and educational dimension. He conceived the idea of reviving the ancient Olympic Games, within a framework of global revival, with sport acting as an instrument for the physical, ethical and cultural education of generations of youth. As a result of the rapid and prodigious development and the wide acceptance of the Olympic Games, coupled with the increasing involvement and participation of people in physical education and sports, the need for an immediate resolution of the issue of appropriate staff education became more urgent. In spite of the fact that the Olympic Games in effect conquered the world, Coubertin realized that they were led away from their original intent, as he had visualized it. When Karl Diem, a leading figure in the German sports, came to Greece, in 1938, for the burial of Coubertin’s heart in the commemorative stele that had been erected in 1927 in Ancient Olympia, it appears that he shared his idea of establishing this important center of philosophical research in Ancient Olympia, based on the model of the Institute of Olympic Studies that already operated in Berlin, with Ioannis Ketseas, Member of IOC for Greece, visionary of that time.

The final solution was realized when, in 1949, the International Olympic Committee approved the proposal of John Ketseas. This proposal provided for the establishment of an International Olympic Academy and was a product of Ketseas' cooperation with the well known internationally, philhellene and sports scientist, Carl Diem. The Hellenic Olympic Committee, with the moral support of the International Olympic Committee, set the foundations and commenced the running of the IOA from 1961, close to the holy Altis, nearby ancient Olympia, as an invaluable gift of Greece to international Olympism.

The greatly successful performance of the Olympic Academy for so many years in effect proved that the correct and effective means for the special Olympic education of the people who would wish to offer their strength and their enthusiasm to this great undertaking had indeed been found.

Next to the ancient marbles of Olympia, at the foot of Kronion, close to the ancient stadium and not far from the river Alfeus, young end elder participants from all over the world, study Olympism, inspired by the spirit of Olympia and freely discuss the issues of Olympism under the guidance and the instruction of internationally renowned teachers.

It took some more years along with the Second World War and the post-War social instability to realize the foundation of the International Olympic Academy. The IOA finally acquired its first legal personality as an HOC Commission in 1955 and after unanimous approval by the general Assembly of the IOC, began its operation with its first Session in 1961, realizing Coubertin’s dream and vision, which was "the creation of a cultural center for the protection and propagation of the Olympic Idea".

The presence of Juan Antonio Samaranch at the helm of the IOC contributed significantly to the IOA’s development by encouraging the establishment of a wave of new National Olympic Academies around the globe, thus promoting the cultural and educational development of the Olympic Movement.

Otto Simitzek, Dean of the IOA for over 30 years, wrote in one of his articles some time ago: "I believe implicitly that the National Olympic Academies can and will accomplish a task of great import and consequence, especially so if they are in touch with the parent International Olympic Academy and they coordinate their activities accordingly". Within a short time after its foundation, the IOA was widely accepted as the spiritual centre of Olympism, a centre of great radiance. At the same time, however, it was ascertained that the Academy could not possibly cover the ever increasing need for the education of the staff which dealt with the Olympic ideal. It was imperative that a way be found to expand its task, even if only for the preparatory stages. Many of those who attended the Sessions of the IOA, when they returned to their respective countries, felt the strong urge to speak of all that they had seen and heard and to convey their enthusiasm and the experience of their visit to Olympia. They organized meetings, published their impressions and delivered speeches on the subjects. These meetings, eventually, took the form of branches of the IOA. That was the beginning of the establishment of the various National Olympic Academies around the globe. The IOA, after having expanded its activities for more than 50 years now, under the patronage of the IOC, is now recognized as the world spiritual centre of Olympism. The recognition as the true international spiritual centre which gives the correct orientation for the observance of the moral principles of the Olympic idea and the philosophical principles of the Olympic spirit, has been furthered by the gigantic development of athletics and all other sports all over the world not only for the spectacle provided by competition and athletic events, but also for exercise, training grounds and facilities and the prevalence of the slogan "sport for all".

During the 50-year period in which the IOA has developed its programs and taught the true principles of the Olympic idea, it became apparent that the spirituality of sport was a question which had not been sufficiently investigated. The many papers and studies which were presented at the IOA's Sessions have shown the great need which exists today in the world of sport for a genuine Olympic conception and the moral principles which govern any sporting activity.

It all started in 1961 with the International Session for Young Participants, the only IOC Session by that time, hosted under simple tents and much later, with approx. 210 participants, another 6 Sessions were included in the IOA annual or bi-annual program.

  1. The "Int. Session for NOA Directors" since 1986 with approx. 120 participants
  2. The "Joint Int. Session for Presidents or Directors of NOA's and Officials of NOC's" since 1992 with approx. 120 participants
  3. The "Int. Session for Educators and Officials of Higher Institutes of Physical Education since 1993 with approx. 80 participants
  4. The "Int. Seminar on Olympic Studies for Postgraduate Students" since 1993 with approx. 40 participants
  5. The "Int. Session for Olympic Medalists" since 2007 with approx. 30 participants
  6. The "Int. Seminar for Sports Journalists" since 1986 with approx. 40 participants

The total number of the participants in the various sports and scientific Congresses and Seminars that have been hosted in the IOA premises all this period easily reaches to a number close to 80.000 including, among them, approx. 20.000 participants of the official Sessions! All these members of the wider circle of the Olympic Family had the great chance to listen, from over 500 Olympic specialists and University professors, their various approaches to Olympism and its Values.

The IOA, through its activities, has contributed significantly to the awareness by the NOCs of the fundamental principles of their work, which does not only consist in the preparation of teams for their participation every four years in the Olympic Games, but mainly in the dissemination of the Olympic idea as a means to enhance the effects of education and create hardworking, able and dynamic citizens. The IOA has become conscious of the need to find a way to expand the teaching of the moral principles of Olympism and the promotion of the true Olympic spirit and realizes that such a vast and difficult project should be undertaken by the youth in the different countries who have had the opportunity to attend the Sessions of the IOA and participate actively in the proceedings. It is, of course, understood that they would always remain responsible to their NOCs and subject to their guidance and protection.

Fifty years after its inauguration, the IOA has finally succeeded in becoming the unique authentic cradle of Olympic culture worldwide. The IOC itself has recognized the IOA in its Charter by name and includes the protection and furthering of its activities among its obligations.

In 2001, the IOA became a private legal entity, acquiring an operational autonomy, with the financial support of the Greek government and the IOC. Setting as its milestone the Olympic Games of Athens 2004, the Academy adopted a different pace; opening the doors of its facilities to events with an Olympic objective, while still maintaining a conservative approach with respect to its true potential.

Today, the IOA with the IOC’s consent aims at expanding its capabilities and playing its own role within the Olympic Movement. Seeking the cooperation of all National Olympic Academies and looking for greater financial support from the IOC, as well as sponsorship from the private sector for the first time in its history, the IOA is striving to play a new role, soon, with a stronger presence in the Olympic Movement, aimed at filling the existing gaps in its structure.

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