As the Olympic capital prepares to host next year’s Winter Youth Olympic Games, we cast our eye over some memorable moments from Lausanne’s rich history as home of the International Olympic Committee.
The early years
The IOC members first gathered in Lausanne in 1913 for the annual Session and V Congress. The opening reception of the Congress was organised by the municipality and was held at the Casino de Montbenon, which would become the IOC’s first official headquarters in the city in 1915. Baron Pierre de Coubertin chose to move the organisation to Switzerland to ensure a more peaceful and stable environment during a time of war in Europe, declaring: “The Olympic spirit will find the pledge of freedom that it needs to progress in the independent and proud atmosphere that one breathes in Lausanne.”
A more permanent home
By 1922, the IOC had set up more permanent headquarters – with a staff of just two people – at the Villa Mon-Repos, courtesy of Lausanne City Hall, which had taken possession of the property a year earlier. As well as providing an office for Coubertin and rooms that could be used for IOC meetings, the Villa Mon-Repos was home to another important part of the IOC’s history in Lausanne – the first Olympic Museum. For many years, Coubertin had planned to exhibit Olympic trophies and memorabilia, and it was agreed that the collection could be stored in a room on the third floor at Mon-Repos. As interest grew in the collection, the IOC voted to develop the Museum at the Session in 1923 and, later that decade, it was opened to the public for the first time.
Fanning the flame
As part of the Torch Relay for the Olympic Games London 1948, the Olympic flame was taken to Lausanne, where Madame la Baronne de Coubertin was present at a ceremony held at Mon-Repos, the IOC headquarters. Thence the flame was carried to the cemetery, where it was dipped in salute in front of the tomb of the founder of the modern Olympic Games.
Room to grow
With the continued growth of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement, the IOC needed to move to larger headquarters in 1968. After nearly half a century at the Villa Mon-Repos, it moved to its new home in the elegant Château de Vidy, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
In 1986, to accommodate the growing IOC administration, the organisation inaugurated its new headquarters in Vidy, which were linked to the old Château by a glass corridor. Two years later, work began on a new permanent Olympic Museum in Ouchy, which was opened in 1993. To mark the IOC’s centenary in 1994, Lausanne was also officially designated as the Olympic Capital by the IOC, further underlining its important role in the development of the Olympic Movement.
The IOC marked its 100th year in Lausanne in 2015, with a variety of events being held to mark the occasion. Celebrations included a special exhibition at the Olympic Museum – “100 years together… the IOC and Lausanne” – and a Centenary Run for members of the public. The City of Lausanne also marked the centenary celebrations by renaming the “Lausanne-Ouchy” metro and bus stops as “Ouchy-Olympique” in honour of the IOC’s 100 years in the city.
Becoming a host city
In July 2015, the IOC awarded the 2020 Winter YOG to Lausanne, giving the Olympic Capital the chance to become an Olympic host city. With Lausanne’s unique Olympic heritage, the 3rd Winter YOG – which will take place in and around Lausanne, on the shores of Lake Geneva, and in the nearby Vaud Alps – look set to further engrain the Olympic Movement in the city’s DNA.
A new home
On 23 June 2019, the day of its 125th anniversary, the IOC officially opened Olympic House – one of the most sustainable buildings in the world. Designed to reflect the IOC’s overarching mission to make the world a better place through sport, the new Olympic House brings together all 500 IOC staff members under one roof and once again confirms the IOC’s attachment to Lausanne, the Olympic Capital.