The International Olympic Committee members (1894-1972). A transnational elite prosopography
The IOC was the first international sports organization based in Switzerland. Its founder – the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863–1937) – endowed it with a system of values that stem from a long tradition of European understanding of humanitarianism and its predecessors. The IOC had to face major challenges in the 20th century when it was overtaken by state diplomacy, which made sport one of the tools of its soft power.
This project extends beyond the classical institutional approach by studying the trajectories of its members. This project reconstructs the family, professional, social and political trajectories of the 213 IOC members co-opted before 1972. It also deciphers the mechanisms of co-optation and the decision-making procedures specific to the IOC. Finally, it assesses the “lowest social, cultural and political denominator” common to all of these leaders, which defines their worldview, and questions the concepts of apolitical (sport) and diplomatic (IOC) neutrality. Based on a prosopographical approach (cross-referencing and serialization of micro-biographies), the project is situated at the intersection of the history of sport, cultural diplomacy, political cultures, the circulation of elites on a global scale and cosmopolitanism. It thus contributes to the history of international organizations based in Switzerland and a better understanding of the concepts of pacifism and neutrality.