When Edström was at the helm of the IOC
J. Sigfrid Edström, the fourth President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), from 1946 to 1952, was born on 21 November in Sweden, 137 years ago. It fell to him to lead the IOC in the middle of the Second World War. In 1931, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the reviver of the Olympic Games, described the Swede as endowed with “admirable zeal”, “intelligent skill” and an “authoritative grasp”: three qualities which would enable him to serve his term of office in a masterful way throughout this period of international troubles.
Cementing the Movement
The war which broke out in Europe in 1939 disrupted Olympic activities. J. Sigfrid Edström, an IOC member since 1920, was then its Vice-President. In 1940, IOC President Henri de Baillet-Latour’s native Belgium was occupied by the German forces. The Swede, who had better communications facilities in his neutral country, maintained the link between the approximately 70 IOC members spread throughout the world by sending regular communications. When Count Baillet-Latour died in 1942, he assumed the responsibilities of the presidency without taking on the title. His communications kept the IOC members together and the Olympic Movement alive until the first post-war Session, held in Lausanne in 1946.
Serving the Games
After the war ended, Edström turned his energy to re-launching Olympic activities, with the main task of organising the Olympic Games. Having witnessed the Games from many angles, as a spectator, organiser and head of the Swedish delegation, he owed it to himself, as IOC Vice-President, to guarantee they were reinstated after the 1940 and 1944 editions were cancelled. London and St Moritz would organise the 1948 Summer and Winter Games respectively.
A wide scope of activities
By electing Edström, then aged 75, by acclamation as IOC President at the 1946 Session in Lausanne, his peers chose a man of experience in sport and its administration as head of the Olympic institution. Among his most important functions in this field was the presidency of what was then the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), an institution founded in 1912 by Edström, who was convinced of the role of international sports federations in establishing rules that were valid throughout the world. As Vice-President of the Swedish National Olympic Committee, Edström also worked towards spreading Olympism throughout his country.
After being at the helm of the IOC for seven years, J. Sigfrid Edström handed over the presidency in 1952, after the Helsinki Games. At the age of 81, his work done, he passed the baton to the newly elected IOC President, the American Avery Brundage. J. Sigfrid Edström, IOC Honorary President, died in 1964 at the age of 93.
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