The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Lima, due to open on Wednesday (September 13), is the third time the "Olympic family" has met in South America in the last four years but in truth it is really making up for lost time.
The only time they previously gathered in that continent was in 1979.
The session in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, that year was one of the most important in the entire history of the modern Olympic Games. It paved the way for mainland China to compete in the Olympics alongside Taiwan for the first time and brought to an end a bitter standoff which had lasted for much of the previous 40 years.
It was a breakthrough which gave real meaning to the emblem chosen for the Session. This depicted the Montevideo city gateway and had been chosen "as a representative of the historic evolution undergone by what is today a metropolitan centre".
"Uruguay and all of the Americas stir with emotion," said IOC member Jose Vallarino Veracierto. He described the session as ‘"blessed moments"and his fellow members as ‘’the sacred guardians of modern Olympism".
The session was opened by Uruguayan state President Aparicio Mendez.
It was held in the “Palacio Legislativo” in what was the penultimate year in office for IOC President Lord Killanin.
He was determined to find a solution to the longest standing problem in the political movement. The communists in mainline China and the nationalists in Taiwan had long been at loggerheads.
"’It is unfortunate that since 1957, this has been a political matter and it would be unrealistic to refuse to face this fact," said Killanin. "I would ask members to forget the various political pressures which have been brought to bear on them. I do not believe these have helped Olympism in any way.’"
The IOC had sent a fact finding team to both countries.
New Zealander Sir Lance Cross and Jamaican Tony Bridge were joined by Alexandru Siperco of Romania, who did not visit Taiwan. He had apparently been forbidden to do so by the Romanian Government.
Cross’s report to the session was bleak in tone.
‘’The Commission had found not only two Governments, but, if not a state of war, a complete state of hostility between the two areas," he wrote. For that reason, the political situation should be kept totally divorced from the IOC.’’
When faced with what to do with East and West Germany in the 1950s, the IOC initially arranged for them to compete under a stylised German tricolour which bore the Olympic rings.
On this occasion Cross suggested that this would not be practical. He pointed out that the distance between the two Chinas was greater than that between Australia and New Zealand. He also told the Session that each had a completely different system of Government and that there was a vast gulf in standard of living. He also highlighted the fear of Taiwanese athletes that if they visited Beijing, they might not be permitted to return.
They recommended that recognition be accorded to the Chinese mainland providing that they adjusted their constitution and "’specifically exclude from their area of jurisdiction the areas which come under the jurisdiction of Taiwan"’.
The group from Taiwan, often referred to in the session as Taipei, filed into the IOC Session the following day at precisely 2.30 pm. They were led by National Olympic Committee vice-president Lawrence Ting, with JY Lo, deputy secretary general, and an interpreter, Miss Mo.
Lord Killanin confronted Ting over his nation's previous behaviour.
In Olympic speak, they had been known as Republic of China in and had refused to give up this title and use an alternative name so as to be acceptable to the People's Republic of China. They had in fact withdrawn from the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal after refusing to do so, an act which Killanin described as a "purely political situation".
Killanin had also discovered that it was a criminal and virtually treasonable offence for a citizen of Taiwan to have contact with those in mainland China.
Ting spoke of the "’deep sincerity of his committee"’ and gave an assurance that ’"athletes from Taiwan would not be prohibited from competing against those from the People’s Republic of China".
A three-man group from the People's Republic of China was led by Olympic Committee secretary Song Zhong, who made a speech which accused the IOC of violating its own Charter with continued recognition of Taiwan as the Republic of China.
"’The democratic procedure was trampled upon," he said.
The IOC enquiry had concluded that there was considerable political interference in the nascent Olympic Committee in the People's Republic.
The game of cat and mouse continued but eventually both sides seemed to offer concessions.
Killanin was determined to force the issue.
"What I was anxious to do was hammer out a formula in Montevideo which brought China back into the Movement,’’ he said and asked for a vote on whether to convene an extra meeting of the Executive Board during the session.
A total of 44 members voted in favour and the IOC Executive Board met that evening to carefully draft a document that would be acceptable to both sides.
A brief communiqué announced the decision which had been made "with the aim of enabling all Chinese youth to participate in the Olympic Games"’.
‘"In the Olympic spirit and in accordance with the Olympic charter, the IOC resolves
"1. To recognise the Chinese Olympic Committee located in Peking
"2. To maintain recognition of the Chinese Olympic Committee located in Taipei
All matters pertaining to names, anthems, flags and constitutions will be the subject of studies and agreements which will have to be completed as soon as possible.’"
The exact name and flag to be used was still a difficulty.
"If every country uses its own flag, I do not see why my country cannot do the same," said Ting.
In fact, Tunisian IOC member Mohammed Mzali proposed that the Taiwanese be called the Chinese Olympic Committee Taipei and that they be "represented by a neutral flag, possibly an Olympic one".
In fact, a specially designed flag for Chinese Taipei, which indeed bore the Olympic rings, was introduced later.
Although there were still negotiations to be completed, the members no doubt breathed a huge sigh of relief that there had been a resolution to this major problem.
China eventually returned to the Olympic Games at Los Angeles 1984, their first appearance since Helsinki 1952.
Another nation was also set to be admitted to the Olympic fold.
Cyprus was now granted what the IOC regarded as "final recognition".
Canadian Richard Pound, a future head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) took the oath as a new IOC member in Montevideo. One of his first duties was to act as a scrutineer for the elections to the Executive Board
One election would have significant consequences. His Excellency Juan Antonio Samaranch, Spanish ambassador to the Soviet Union, was re-elected to the IOC Executive Board.
"No one in the IOC was at all surprised to see the diplomatic qualities of this industrialist recognised by his Government when he became the first Spanish Ambassador to Moscow since 1936,"said the Olympic Review. The following year, Samaranch became IOC President and many felt his time as a diplomat in Moscow had been a major factor in his success.
With just over 12 months to the Moscow 1980 Olympics, the Organising Committee was in Montevideo to give a full progress report.
"We want the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow to make a contribution not only to the development of the Olympic movement but also to the cause of détente and the strengthening of world peace,’’ said Moscow 1980 President Ignati Novikov.
It was announced that they would send out invitations in January 1980. "No objections were raised."
Novikov took a side swipe at what he called the "inadmissible actions" of certain International Federations.
He was particularly angry that FIFA had imposed an Olympic ban on European and South American players who had taken part in the World Cup in football, describing FIFA’s decision to bar them as "a discriminatory decision".
He confidently predicted that 103 countries would attend the Games and announced that the Moscow Organising Committee would help developing countries with flights to the Games on Aeroflot and "paying their accommodation and service in the Olympic Village out of its own resources"’.
It was also announced that restaurants in the Olympic Village would be self-service. Samaranch asked if this applied to the IOC and was told they would have "first-class high quality service".
FIFA President João Havelange "assured his colleagues that there would be excellent conditions for them in Moscow". He advised them to visit the Spartakiad, the Soviet multi-sport festival.
While this was normally restricted to domestic athletes, it was thrown open to international competitors in 1979 and became a giant test event for the following year's Olympic Games.
In those days, the Winter Olympics were held in the same year and in 1980 Lake Placid was the host resort.
The Organising Committee was led by a church minister, the Reverend Bernard Fell, who told the IOC his Committee was dogged by "inflation, vanity, avarice and greed".
He said they "were experiencing more difficulties than the IOC realised" and it was agreed that the IOC would set up an Ad hoc Committee to inspect the accommodation facilities.
Their plans for an unusual splitting of the Olympic flame were approved but Killanin also asked the chief of protocol to examine the rules to avoid a recurrence in the future.
The 1984 Olympics Games had been assigned the previous year. Winter hosts Sarajevo and Summer Games city Los Angeles both reported on their preliminary activities.
The eminent Hungarian Arpad Csanadi reported on possible changes to the Olympic programme.
It was agreed that the playing squads for handball be increased because in recent years "this sport had appeared to be more aggressive and therefore more injuries occurred".
Badminton had been lobbying for inclusion on the Olympic programme but as there were two separate International Federations, a decision was deferred.
Although tennis was keen to return to the Olympic programme, there was still a problem of eligibility with the amateur regulations still in force.
Even so, International Tennis Federation President Philippe Chatrier asked if it would be possible to arrange a demonstration event at Los Angeles 1984. His wish was granted and the sport was such a success in the American city, with Sweden's Stefan Edberg winning the men's event and Germany's Steffi Graf the women's that tennis was restored as a full medal sport at Seoul in 1988.
Women’s cycling was still not part of the Games and a decision on this was put back to the following year, alongside consideration of what was then described as "modern" gymnastics, which later became known as rhythmic gymnastics.
The IOC also decided to give official recognition to the Federation International de Quilleurs, which controlled ten pin bowling, a game played in over 60 countries. They noted that "the Federation itself had no connections with any professional organisations".
It was confirmed that the choice of host city for 1988 would be decided in 1981. The session was to be in the German spa town of Baden Baden. This would be a huge gathering which would also incorporate an Olympic Congress, only the second held since the Second World War.
The members also accepted a bid from Rio de Janeiro to stage the IOC Session in 1982 but financial difficulties meant it was switched elsewhere.
An IOC session did not ultimately take place in Brazil last summer on the eve of the opening of Rio 2016.