Demetrius Vikelas,
first IOC President

Demetrius Vikelas was the first IOC President (1894-1896) and, with a two-year mandate, the president who held the office for the shortest period of time.

In 1893, Vikelas created the Institut Melas, which was formed to help with pre-school education in non-Athenian parts of Greece. He was a loyal Greek, and collaborated in the founding of a Greek school in London. His knowledge of and devotion to Greece and Greek culture were influential and important in regard to handling the negotiations and organising the details of the 1896 Athens Games.

Demetrius Vikelas

Vikelas was little known in the sporting world, but he earned the friendship of Pierre de Coubertin during his days in Paris. This brought him an invitation to the 1894 Sorbonne Congress in Paris, representing Greece and the Pan-Hellenic Gymnastic Society, at which Coubertin formulated the plans for the modern Olympic Games. After the Congress had agreed to hold Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, it was left to elect a president of the nascent Olympic Movement. Early Olympic thinking considered it important that the IOC President should come from the country hosting the next Games, and Vikelas was thus appointed to the role. Despite his lack of experience in sports administration, he proved an able and enthusiastic president before handing the office over to Coubertin at the successful conclusion of the 1896 Games.


According to Olympic historians John Lucas and David Young, Vikelas was not a figurehead president, and it was he who did almost all the work to organise the Olympic Games 1896. It was Vikelas who met with officials in Athens; Vikelas who got them to agree to host the first “modern” Games, when the entire idea was in jeopardy; and Vikelas who tended to the public relations, sent out invitations and made arrangements to use various facilities in the city.

Demetrius Vikelas

Except for a brief absence, when he returned to Paris to bury his wife after her death, Vikelas was the instrumental figure throughout the planning of the Olympic Games 1896. The only controversy encountered during Vikelas’ tenure as IOC President was a disagreement with Coubertin in regard to future Olympic Games. The Greeks wished to hold all future Olympic Games in Athens and Vikelas supported this claim, but Coubertin insisted that the Games become international in scope. A compromise was offered by Vikelas in which he proposed that interim Games be held in Athens every two years between editions of the international Olympic Games. This did occur once, in 1906, giving rise to what became known as the “Intercalated Games”, but Coubertin rejected all of Vikelas’ other proposals. In late 1896, Vikelas resigned as President of the IOC, although he remained active in the organisation until his death, and he and Coubertin later resumed their friendship. In 1905, Vikelas served as the Greek delegate to the Olympic Congress in Brussels.

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