Philip Barker

Olympic Day always has a special resonance for the Olympic Movement and is celebrated every June 23.

It was on this day in 1894 that the proposal of Baron Pierre de Coubertin for the revival of Olympics for the modern era was formally accepted.

It was 75 years ago that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) first decided to formally adopt a "World Olympic Day" at its Session during the Winter Olympics in St Moritz.

This was aimed to "encourage the ideas and maxims of Baron de Coubertin particularly amongst the young of all countries".

Sweden's Sigfrid Edstrom was IOC President when Olympic Day was first celebrated in 1948 ©Getty Images
Sweden's Sigfrid Edstrom was IOC President when Olympic Day was first celebrated in 1948 ©Getty Images

It was recommended that each National Olympic Committee should organise events on an annual basis.

"We have come here today to celebrate the Olympic Day of the World," IOC President Sigfrid Edstrom said in a message for the first Olympic Day in 1948.

"During this month thousands of young men and women are gathered in different cities to express their interest in the Olympic Movement and the development of physical culture."

Events took place in nine countries in that first celebration, but the IOC has estimated that 150 countries will be involved this year.

Their own initiative called Let’s Move has been launched in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

This has been described as "an invitation to make time every day for movement for better health".

In India, a mass run at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi was to set in motion the "Bharat in Paris" scheme to encourage participation and promote the Olympic Movement in India and the Paris Olympics.

In Australia, the day has been celebrated with a "Have a Go" day.

"Sport has significant physical and mental benefits for everyone, no matter your age or background. Everyone is different, so matching yourself to an Olympic sport makes it easy," Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll said.

In Greece, where the Games of antiquity took place, an Olympic Day run has already taken place this week in Ancient Olympia.

Only this week Paris 2024 voted an additional € 100,000 (£86,000/$109,000) to support their swimming initiative called "1,2,3 Nagez!".

Other Olympic Day events are planned in the Olympic city over the weekend and that is appropriate because it was at the Paris Sorbonne University that the decision to restore the Olympics was taken on June 23 1894.

The Congress had been organised by the French nobleman Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

In January 1894, a circular sent out from Coubertin's Paris home at Rue Oudinot announced that the Congress was to take place in Paris.

It mentioned "the re-establishment of the Olympic Games on a basis and in the conditions in keeping with the needs of modern life".

It suggested that this "would bring together every four years representatives of the nations of the world and one is permitted to think that these peaceful courteous contests constitute the best form of internationalism".

The Congress itself ran from June 16 to June 24 and included fencing demonstrations, torch races and a son et lumiere.

"The programme was drawn up in such a way as to disguise its main object, the revival of the Olympic Games," Coubertin admitted.

He was concerned that "it might raise a storm of contempt and scorn".

Coubertin sought the assistance of Octave Gréard, a senior official and rector of the University of Paris who gave permission for the great halls of the Sorbonne to be used.

Coubertin invited personalities such as William Milligan Sloane, Professor at Princeton University, General Viktor Balck who had helped found sporting societies in Sweden and Amateur Athletic Association Secretary Charles Herbert.

The Congress featured a performance of the newly discovered Hymn of Apollo which had been discovered among the ruins at Delphi.

It was set to music by Gabriel Fauré and sung by opera singer Jeanne Remacle, perhaps the only woman to participate in the Congress.

"The playing of this sacred piece of music created the desired atmosphere among the huge audience," Coubertin wrote.

"Hellenism infiltrated the whole vast hall, I knew now whether consciously or not, no one would vote against the revival of the Olympic Games."

It was passed unanimously and the Greek delegate Dimetrios Vikelas claimed the first Games for Greece.

"Athens was selected to the accompaniment of wild applause" and the rest as they say is history.

The Olympic Museum opened in Lausanne on Olympic Day 30 years ago ©Getty Images
The Olympic Museum opened in Lausanne on Olympic Day 30 years ago ©Getty Images

Coubertin wrote about the revival of the Olympic Games in his "Olympic Memoirs" published in Lausanne in 1932.

They were written some seven years after his tenure as IOC President had come to an end.

This week new translations of the work are being published in Swahili and Hindi by the International Pierre de Coubertin Committee (IPCC).

This was a group founded in January 1975 to perpetuate the entire intellectual work of Pierre de Coubertin and "to spread his ideas among the youth of the world".

The translation into Hindi was carried out in collaboration with the Abhinav Bindra Foundation, set up to honour India's first individual Olympic gold medallist.

It will make the work available to some 420 million who speak Hindi as a first language.

The translation into Swahili was by Mr. Muharam Mchume, IPCC member in Tanzania and member of the Tanzanian Olympic Academy. 

Some 150 million speak Swahili as a native tongue.

Coubertin left 15,000 printed pages when he died in 1937. 

This considerable body of work was examined in detail by French professor Jean Durry and by the late German scholar Norbert Muller who masterminded an official publication of Coubertin's work in English at the start of new millennium.

Olympic Day this year also marks the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, a goal for Coubertin from the moment he established the IOC headquarters in the city in 1915.

The Olympic Museum celebrates its own 30th anniversary this weekend ©The Olympic Museum
The Olympic Museum celebrates its own 30th anniversary this weekend ©The Olympic Museum

Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC President for 21 years from 1980, was one who shared the desire to create an Olympic Museum.

"It will be at once a meeting place, a place of research and the centre from which Olympism will radiate its influence," Raymond Gafner, the IOC member in Switzerland who helped oversee the building project explained.

As Olympic champions from all over the world gathered on opening day 30 years ago, double Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt lit a cauldron outside the museum which burns to this day.

"To design a cauldron of this kind was not an easy task, after all, the stadium cauldrons display and maintain a flame destined to preside there only briefly, whereas this one will hold a flame that burns constantly," Samaranch reflected.

"Its design had to be innovative without offending against the Olympic spirit." 

The museum will mark the anniversary on Saturday (June 24) with free entry for a special exhibition with artefacts on display from the archives.

Sporting events will be held in the Olympic Park area and visitors are also be able to hit an anniversary piñata in the presence of Olympians, with a Choréoké dance event planned for the evening.