Philip Barker ©ITGIt has never staged the Olympic Games, but Lausanne in Switzerland is about to celebrate a century as the "Olympic Capital." Even the city railway station is adorned with the five Olympic rings.

It was in 1915 that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) first established their headquarters on the shores of  Lake Geneva -known locally as Lake Leman - for the first time.

Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin was IOC President at the time. He had been planning the move to the Swiss city since 1907.

"Lausanne was the most apt location imaginable for the establishment of the administrative headquarters of Olympism," he wrote. "Spread out delightfully along the shores of the lake, crowned by forests, provided with every conceivable sporting possibility."

In 1913, IOC members gathered in Lausanne for their annual Session and an Olympic Congress. The proceedings opened with a reception at the Casino de Montbenon.

The all-male IOC membership included a Duke and a Marquis, three Barons, eight Counts, a Colonel, a Professor and a Vicar.

The meeting was infamous for the decision to disqualify the great American athlete Jim Thorpe, the 1912 Olympic decathlon and pentathlon champion, who had received money for playing small-time baseball. For this he was stripped of his medals.

Later in the week an Olympic "Congress" was held under the "high patronage of Federal Council of the Swiss Confederation." The Congresses usually feature academic and philosophical discussions. Some 70 of the participants on this occasion came from Switzerland. They included academics, doctors and professors of medicine and they discussed sport physiology and psychology.

Apart from the learned debate, there was a Venetian fete, a performance by the combined choirs of Lausanne and a wrestling display illuminated by torchlight.

The member in Switzerland, Baron Godefroy de Blonay, hosted a ball in honour of the IOC and welcomed them to his chateau at Grandson.

"The town was bedecked with flags and a troop of small boy scouts formed a guard of honour on the steps," said Coubertin, reinforced in his conviction that Lausanne was a true home for his Movement.

Lausane, on the banks of Lake Geneva, has been the official home to the International Olympic Committee since 1915 ©Getty ImagesLausane, on the banks of Lake Geneva, has been the official home to the International Olympic Committee since 1915 ©Getty Images

War broke out in 1914 and the following year Coubertin returned to Lausanne to establish his Olympic headquarters in a neutral country. "Olympism will find, in the independent and proud atmosphere which one breathes here, a guarantee of the liberty, indispensable to its progress," he said.

Meanwhile, the President himself had enlisted in the French army.

"I judge it to be incorrect that our Committee should be presided over by a soldier," said Coubertin. "I have therefore asked our colleague and friend, Godefroy de Blonay to undertake the functions of interim President. You will be aware of his competence and his devotion."

An Olympic Institute based on the gymnasium of antiquity in Ancient Olympia was set up in Lausanne. This had long been Coubertin's dream. Lausanne architects Eugene Monod and Alphonse Laverierre had submitted a design for the newly introduced artistic contests at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. It won gold.

After the long years of the Great War, the Olympic family met again in Lausanne in 1919 and Antwerp was confirmed as the host city for the 1920 Games.

Two years later they were back in  Lausanne, and this time chose Paris to stage the 1924 Games and Amsterdam for 1928.

The IOC Executive Committee, established in 1921, began to meet in Lausanne on a regular basis and the city hosted a full Session for the third time in a decade in 1929.

All but one of the candidates for the 1932 Winter Games were American. Montreal also threw their hats into the ring but the IOC chose Lake Placid.

They discussed definitions of amateurism. It was a problem which was to trouble the Olympic Movement over many future decades. The size of the Games was also a burning issue even then. Basketball, handball, canoeing, rugby, lacrosse, even billiards, asked for a place on the Olympic programme in 1929.

The President also read a letter from the Dane Ivar Nyholm who reported that the Scandinavian countries had passed a resolution "urging a complete suppression of all women's events from the Games."

The Executive Committee was asked to examine the programme and tellingly, they did not rule out the exclusion of women's sport.

Curiously there was one woman who joined the Olympic operation that year. Her name was Lydia Zanchi  and she began as  assistant to IOC Secretary-General  Albert Berdez when he asked, "Have you a few hours to spare for the IOC?"

After the Second World War she was appointed secretary on a more formal basis and  stayed in the post until 1966. "I lived with the IOC as in a second family," she would say later. She also found time to campaign for women to have the vote in Switzerland, if not yet at the IOC.

Lausanne did not forget Coubertin and in June 1937, shortly before his death, he was awarded the freedom of the city.

Baron Perre de Coubertin was buried in Lausanne following his death in 1937 and a tomb now marks his final resting place ©Getty ImagesBaron Perre de Coubertin was buried in Lausanne following his death in 1937 and a tomb now marks his final resting place ©Getty Images

The Olympic Games of 1940 and 1944 were not held because of the War, but 1944 was the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the IOC. This was celebrated in Lausanne, albeit in muted fashion.

A lecture - "De Coubertin and sport" - was given by  Paul Martin, Switzerland's 800 metres silver medallist from the 1924 Games in Paris. Coubertin's widow Marie joined city Mayor Jules Henri Addor as a wreath was laid at the founder's grave. The pavements glistened with rain as youngsters from the city gave a demonstration of physical exercises in front of Lausanne University at the Palais de Rumine.

When the war was over, the Olympic family were back again for another session in 1946. Le Syndic (Mayor) Pierre Graber received the Olympic Cup from the IOC President Sigfrid Edstrom. .

The Olympic Torch passed through Lausanne en route for the 1948 London Games and Mayor Graber attended the 1952 Games in Helsinki. "An extraordinary atmosphere thanks to the sporting fervour of the Finnish people, I became convinced that Lausanne could legitimately put forward its candidature for the 1960 Games," he said.

Lausanne made it to the final round and even built an "Olympic" Stadium but Rome was chosen. "Since then, the Summer Games have grown to a scale out of all proportion with that of Lausanne," said Graber.

The official IOC headquarters had been the Mon Repos villa in the centre of town since 1922, but the administration was very low key. The IOC now had a "Chancellor", a jeweller called Otto Mayer, but behind the grand title, he ran the organisation from his shop..

Later it was rumoured that the Olympic headquarters might move to another Swiss city or even abroad. In 1968 the city offered the IOC the lakeside Chateau de Vidy. It had belonged to the De Loys family in the 18th and 19th century and it was even said that Napoleon had stayed there.

Mon Repos villa was the International Olympic Committee's home for nearly 50 years from 1922 until they moved into bigger headquarters ©Philip BarkerMon Repos villa was the International Olympic Committee's home for nearly 50 years from 1922 until they moved into bigger headquarters ©Philip Barker

Mon Repos still remained an Olympic building and eventually became the home of Olympic Solidarity.

In the late 1960s, IOC President Avery Brundage appointed former Olympic swimmer and journalist Monique Berlioux to take charge of operations in the Olympic city. Brundage's tenure as President finally ended in 1972 , when the Irish peer Lord Killanin made his way to Vidy to receive the ceremonial keys to mark the start of his presidency. Another IOC Session was held in Lausanne in May 1975.

With little over a year to go until the Montreal Olympics, the Olympic Review announced that the IOC was "fully re-assured by the explanations provided by the Montreal delegation." That statement masked strikes and delays in construction work.

The IOC were also upset by accommodation charges of $24 (£16/€20) per night for the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

African sports leader Abraham Ordia came before the IOC to call for Rhodesia to be excluded because they selected their team on racial grounds. "All sportsmen on our continent should enjoy participation in all Olympic sports without hindrance of race, religion or politics," he said. A total of 19 African National Olympic Committees supported him.and the IOC voted 41-26 to withdraw recognition from Rhodesia. They eventually returned to the Games fold as Zimbabwe in 1980, with their women winning a gold medal in the hockey at Moscow. 

Neither Avery Brundage nor Lord Killanin had lived in the Olympic city during their time as President, but when Juan Antonio Samaranch was elected in 1980, he decided to take up full-time residence in Lausanne. He gradually introduced his own staff. He was among those who believed that Executive Director Berlioux had become too powerful and eventually forced her resignation.

Unlike his predecessor as IOC President, Juan Antonio Samarach based himself in Lausanne ©Getty ImagesUnlike his predecessor as IOC President, Juan Antonio Samarach based himself in Lausanne ©Getty Images

The Olympic headquarters themselves were extended. A new annex opened in 1986 in time for the 91st Session in the city.

The success of the 1984 Games in Los Angeles  encouraged other cities to bid for the Olympics in 1992. The voting took place at the Palais de Beaulieu where the French resort of Albertville beat six other cities to win the vote to host the Winter Games. Six candidates contested  the Summer Games but the verdict went to  Barcelona, home city of IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, though he did not vote. It was the last time that both summer and winter Games would be held in the same year.

Lausanne had long realised the Summer Games were impractical but launched a bid for the 1994 Winter Olympics. "There's no substitute for know-how," they said and made sure their team included future IOC Director for the Olympic Games, Gilbert Felli.

"Our hearts are in it," said bid leader Pierre Schwitzguebel. Unfortunately, his views were not shared and  a public referendum in mid-1988 put paid to the campaign.

"This bid generated great enthusiastic support," wrote Schwitzguebel and bid secretary Claude Petitpierre. "This was unfortunately annihilated at the last minute by opponents who succeeded in winning over some of Lausanne's population to their arguments, due to a misinterpretation of our bid documents."

A Lausanne bid for the 1994 Winter Olympics was scuppered because of lack of public support ©Philip BarkerA Lausanne bid for the 1994 Winter Olympics was scuppered because of lack of public support ©Philip Barker

Even without the Games, the 1990s was to prove Lausanne's busiest Olympic decade.

On 23 June 1993, the long awaited Olympic Museum finally opened at the picturesque Quai d'Ouchy  There had been smaller museum collections in Lausanne before, but nothing quite on this scale. The big day was "an event of the first order for the Olympic Movement," said veteran IOC member Raymond Gafner. "Our great ship is afloat."

The following day the 100th IOC Session opened with the theme "Olympism and Culture". Guests included figure skating champion Katarina Witt, legendary gymnast Vera Caslavska and film maker Bud Greenspan .

Three years later the IOC were back in Lausanne again, to choose the host city for 2004. Stockholm were the first to present on election day but South African President Nelson Mandela electrified the session with his support for Cape Town. His Argentinian counterpart Carlos Menem came in support of Buenos Aires, but the final vote proved a Mediterranean affair as Athens beat Rome in the fourth round.

This was also the Session at which the International Rugby Board was granted IOC recognition, the first step towards its eventual return to the Olympics.

Yet very soon, the IOC found itself, in the words of Swiss member Denis Oswald, "at the epicentre of an earthquake."

The Salt Lake City bribery exploded in 1998 and President Samaranch convened an extra Session in Lausanne in March 1999. "Unless we act quickly, decisively and unanimously, the damage which may be done to the Olympic movement and to the IOC will be very, very serious," he said. "We must root out all forms of inappropriate or unethical behaviour amongst our membership."

Six IOC members were expelled and the rules on bidding were reformed.

Before the year was out, the IOC were back in Lausanne  to consider the work of a Reform Commission. This presented 49 recommendations.

A limit of 115 active IOC members was set and a term of office of eight years, renewable every eight years. For the first time members of the athlete commission became fully fledged IOC members and the first seven were sworn in.

The Olympic Oath for athletes was also  modified at this session. From Sydney 2000, it included the clause: "Committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs." 

The IOC's headquarters at Chateau de Vidy in Lausanne flooded in 2013, hastening plans to build new multi-million dollar facilities there ©Getty Images
The IOC's headquarters at Chateau de Vidy in Lausanne flooded in 2013, hastening plans to build new multi-million dollar facilities there ©Getty Images

Though the Executive Board met regularly in Lausanne, the full session did not return until 13 years. In the meantime there had been a flood to follow the earthquake. This was no new scandal however, simply a burst water pipe. In 2013 a Youth Olympic host city was decided in the Olympic capital for the first time. Buenos Aires beat Scottish city Glasgow and Colombia's Medellín in the final vote. For 2018 Lausanne has been now confirmed as a candidate for the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.

At their last Session of 2014, the IOC unveiled plans for a $160 million (£104 million/€133 million) overhaul of their headquarters. Complete with solar panels and technology to harness the waters of the lake, it will be "a place that respects tradition and brings modernity and transparency to the Movement". 

The IOC believe this Olympic campus will be the perfect launching pad for a second century in Lausanne.

Philip Barker has worked as a television journalist for 25 years. He began his career with Trans World Sport, then as a reporter for Sky Sports News and the ITV breakfast programme. A regular Olympic pundit on BBC Radio, Sky News and talkSPORT, he is associate editor of the Journal of Olympic History, has lectured at the National Olympic Academy and contributed extensively to Team GB publications. To follow him on Twitter click here.