The early relationship between UNESCO and the IOC: Considerations – Controversies – Cooperation


  • Caroline Meier Institute of Sport History / Olympic Studies Centre German Sport University Cologne (Germany)


UNESCO, International Olympic Committee, fair-play trophy, 10th Olympic Congress Varna, apolitical sport, amateurism, educational value of sport


Today, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is “the United Nations’ lead agency for physical education and sportâ€. It runs several projects and initiatives and it closely cooperates with various international organisations that are engaged in the field of sport and physical education. The questions as to how and why sport became part of UNESCO’s programme and who were the involved participants, however, remain unanswered in academic literature. This article shows that after the introduction of the idea to include sport and physical education in its programme by individual sports officials, with members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) playing a key role, UNESCO had to overcome severe controversies, jealousies and power struggles when trying to position itself in the field. Particularly, the relationship between UNESCO and the IOC was difficult – the general problems of international sports, and consequently the IOC, were mirrored in the process of UNESCO’s early involvement in sport. In order to elucidate the development of UNESCO’s engagement in international sport until the early 1970s, the research utilises the qualitative research method of hermeneutics and analyses archive material from the Carl und Liselott Diem-Archive at the German Sport University Cologne, the IOC Archive in Lausanne, the UNESCO Archive in Paris and the Avery Brundage Collection of the University of Illinois at Aubana-Champaign Archives.

Author Biography

Caroline Meier, Institute of Sport History / Olympic Studies Centre German Sport University Cologne (Germany)

Since July 2013 Caroline Meier is an employee at the Institute of Sport History/ Olympic Studies Centre at the German Sport University Cologne. She has a M.Sc. in Sport Management, for her Master thesis she received the German Sport University Cologne’s Award for Young Academics. In June 2014 she participated in the 54th Young Participants Session of the International Olympic Academy in Olympia.






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