Henri de Baillet-Latour,
third IOC President

Count Henri de Baillet-Latour succeeded Pierre de Coubertin to become the third President of the International Olympic Committee.

Baillet-Latour fit well with Coubertin’s image of the IOC as a gentleman’s club, and he was elected to the IOC membership in 1903. His first significant involvement in Olympic matters came in 1905, when he helped organise the 3rd Olympic Congress, held in Brussels. Shortly thereafter, Baillet-Latour organised the Belgian participation in the London 1908 and Stockholm 1912 Games.

After World War I broke out in 1914, the Olympic Games could not be held in 1916 in Berlin as planned. The Belgian people suffered terribly during the war, as much of it was fought on their land. Prior to the war, Belgium had made entreaties about the possibility of hosting an Olympic Games edition, and in 1919, ostensibly due to the country’s suffering during the war, Antwerp, Belgium, was awarded the right to host the Olympic Games 1920. With only one year to prepare, and much of the nation impoverished and hungry because of war deprivations, the Olympic Games 1920 were austere at best, but they proved to be a success because of the efforts of the head of the Organising Committee, Count Baillet-Latour.


The following year (1921), Baillet-Latour was rewarded with an appointment to the IOC’s newly formed five-member Executive Board. In 1923, he was elected President of the Belgian Olympic Committee, a post he would hold for 19 years until his death. And at the 1925 Olympic Congress in Prague, following two rounds of balloting, Baillet-Latour was elected to an eight-year term as President, to succeed the retiring Coubertin.

Women’s sport at the Olympic Games was the first problem faced by Baillet-Latour. In 1929, he proposed to the IOC Executive Board that women be limited to the “strictly feminine” sports of figure skating, gymnastics, swimming and tennis. By then, women had also competed at the Games in fencing and, in 1928, in track and field. At the 1930 Olympic Congress, Baillet-Latour proposed that women’s events in track and field be eliminated from the programme of the Olympic Games 1932. The International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) responded by proposing a special Congress of its own, in which it would vote to eliminate men’s track and field from the Olympic programme, which put an end to any effort to remove women’s athletics from the programme.

In 1931, the decision was made to award the 1936 Summer Games to Berlin and the 1936 Winter Games to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

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