Philip Barker

In just over a month, another city will learn its Olympic destiny in the city they call "Capitale Olympique". It will come exactly 100 years after the first such coronation.

Lausanne was not the original venue for this 2019 session. It was due to have been held in Milan, but as they are part of a bid with Cortina d’Ampezzo for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, regulations rule out a vote on Italian soil. 

Cortina have come this way before as the city was a candidate for the 1992 Winter Olympics. When the vote was taken at the IOC Session in Lausanne in 1986, their lobbying group included film star Gina Lollobrigida and bobsleigh champion Eugenio Monti, but their entreaties fell on deaf ears as Cortina lost out to Albertville in France.

In many respects the relocation of the session to Lausanne has come as a happy accident for the IOC. They celebrate their 125th anniversary the day before they vote for the 2026 hosts. The organisation's new multi-million dollar headquarters in Vidy will be also be unveiled on June 23.

The first time Lausanne hosted an IOC Session was in 1913. The place clearly made a big impression on Baron Pierre de Coubertin who led the Olympic Movement at that time. It was little wonder that, two years later, he chose Lausanne as a peaceful headquarters for the Olympic Movement as war came.

By 1919, peace had returned after four long years of conflict and the Olympic family gathered in at the Hotel Beau Sejour in the city.

Count Henri Baillet Latour of Belgium "confirmed the request made by the city of Antwerp in 1914". The IOC decided "in a unanimous homage to Belgium" to grant the 1920 Games to Antwerp.

"The IOC invites all the National Olympic Committees to associate themselves with this tribute and to do their best to assure the participation of their respective countries in these Games," the IOC said.

It was also resolved to meet in Lausanne in 1921 to choose the host city for the Games of the VII Olympiad in 1924.

In 1986, Barcelona were chosen to host the 1992 Summer Olympics at a vote in Lausanne ©Barcelona 1992
In 1986, Barcelona were chosen to host the 1992 Summer Olympics at a vote in Lausanne ©Barcelona 1992

The IOC minutes mention bids from Amsterdam, Lyon, Havana and Rome. Jiri Guth Jarkovsky of Bohemia spoke to propose an unusual idea; Coubertin remained silent but his hand could be seen behind the strategy which was to assign the next two host cities at the same time.

After the discussions, there were three separate votes. Eventually Coubertin announced that Paris was chosen as host city for 1924 and, at the same time, Amsterdam was given the task for 1928. It was a decision which found an echo a century later when successive host cities were again chosen simultaneously. 

Back then, there were objections from the Italian Carlo Montu, Comte Albert Gautier Vignal of France, Romanian Gheorghe Plagino and Raul de Rio Branco of Brazil. Gautier Vignal insisted he was not against the election of Paris per se, but rather that he objected to what he called "la double attribution".

This decision caused some bitterness and the Italian representatives staged a walk out.

At the end of the decade, the full Session returned to Lausanne once more. This time Lake Placid was confirmed as hosts of the 1932 Winter Games. Los Angeles had earlier been chosen to stage the Summer Games. In those days Summer and Winter Games were held in the same country wherever it was possible to do so.

Although the IOC Executive Board continued to travel to Switzerland, there was not another IOC Session in Lausanne until after the Second World War.

By the time they gathered there in 1946, St Moritz and London had already been confirmed as hosts by postal ballot and members heard a report on the progress that had been made for both Winter and Summer Games.

Even so, another important appointment was made formal. Johannes Sigfrid Edström, acting President since the death of Count Baillet Latour, was confirmed in the role as IOC supremo.

Stockholm's bid for the 2004 floundered in Lausanne in 1997 ©Stockholm 2004
Stockholm's bid for the 2004 floundered in Lausanne in 1997 ©Stockholm 2004

Although Lausanne staged a creditable but ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 1960 Games, the members did not meet to choose another host city there until October 1986. On this occasion the host city for Summer and Winter Games in 1992 were both to be chosen. It would be the last time that both Games were staged in the same year.

The vote occupied items 11 and 12 on the agenda and in the days before the vote, there had been feverish lobbying by the bidding cities. Among those campaigning for the Summer Games was Birmingham. Their bid leader Denis Howell complained of "horrendous pressures" and claimed FIFA President Joao Havelange, a Brazilian, was trying to persuade his fellow IOC members to vote for Barcelona.

They had built a pavilion with a marble floor, exhibited pictures by Picasso, and had offered each IOC member a golden telephone, he alleged.

The Swedes, bidding for the Winter Games with Falun, were supported by their royal family and also had Bjorn Borg and Olympic skiing legend Ingemar Stenmark on hand to greet members.

Berchtesgaden sent along a string quartet, though anti-Olympic demonstrations by a citizens group dealt the final blow to their chances.

Sebastian Coe, now International Association of Athletics Federations President, was one of those present to support Birmingham. They offered a cruise on Lake Geneva complete with bagpipes. Omar Khalifa arrived carrying a 1948 Olympic Torch to receive a cheque for the Sport Aid famine relief programme. The diners even had a video message from Sir Bob Geldof, the rock star who had instigated the charity.

A strong opposition campaign also put paid to Amsterdam’s chances despite the additional presence of legendary figures such as Fanny Blankers Koen, winner of four gold medals in 1948, and Dutch football superstar Johan Cruyff to support Anton Geesink, their IOC member and himself a judo champion from 1964.

Even Barcelona’s seemingly unassailable bid was rocked by a bomb at their headquarters. On one day their stand was deliberately in darkness, in homage to the victims.

The last IOC Session in Lausanne saw the approval of the double award of the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles ©Getty Images
The last IOC Session in Lausanne saw the approval of the double award of the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles ©Getty Images

When it came to the voting, Albertville won the ballot for the Winter Games on the sixth round of voting and in the race for the Summer Games, Barcelona edged out Paris by 48-23 in the third.

At that session, the IOC also decided to change the Olympic cycle, so when the members voted in 1997, it was only to choose the hosts for the 2004 Summer Games. A total of 11 cities had started the race, but after visits from an Evaluation Commission led by now IOC President Thomas Bach, the list was reduced to five.

Although Stockholm made it through, their campaign to "feel the light" for the Summer Games was badly affected by opposition at home. There had even been a bomb attack on their bidding headquarters.

Buenos Aires also went out early despite the presence of Argentina’s President Carlos Menem.

Cape Town had the support of Nelson Mandela and the members were clearly delighted to see him attend the Session. Even so, they went out in the third round of voting.

Only Athens and Rome were left in the fourth round and the Greek capital prevailed with 66 votes.

IOC member Nikos Filaretos promised his colleagues that Athens 2004 would be "worthy of the tradition of the city of Athens, the national heritage of Greece and the Greeks' devotion to the Olympic Movement".

The week of the Session had been overshadowed by other events. In Paris, Diana Princess of Wales had been killed in a car crash and later in the week came news of the passing of Mother Teresa.

IOC President Thomas Bach said the "historic double allocation" was a win-win for the cities of Paris and Los Angeles ©Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach said the "historic double allocation" was a win-win for the cities of Paris and Los Angeles ©Getty Images

The last time the "family" met in Lausanne, there were two cities in the running. Just as in 1921 when the IOC had agreed Paris should host in 1924 and Amsterdam in 1928, the members agreed on a decision which had everyone smiling. When the vote was taken later in the year in Lima, it was a formality.

"This historic double allocation is a win-win situation for the city of Paris, the city of Los Angeles and the IOC," said Bach. 

"It is hard to imagine something better. Ensuring the stability of the Olympic Games for the athletes of the world for the next 11 years is extraordinary."