Olymic Games: Samaranch lauds founder: IOC president pays tribute to de Coubertin

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The Independent Online
THE modern Olympic movement paid homage to its founding father, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, yesterday as it celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Games' re-birth.

Members of the International Olympic Committee gathered in the ornate 'Great Amphitheatre' of Paris's Sorbonne University, where on June 23, 1894, the Frenchman revived the Olympiads of ancient Greece.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president who has overseen a radical transformation of the Olympic movement, said the IOC had kept faith with De Coubertin's original Olympic ideals.

He singled out the IOC's support for anti-apartheid campaigners in South Africa and its attempt to call an Olympic truce for Bosnia during the recent Lillehammer Games as examples of those ideals. 'The Olympism of

today is faithful to the conception of its initiator, building upon the foundations laid by Pierre de Coubertin,' Samaranch said.

But he made no mention of one of the original Olympic ideals - that of amateurism - abandoned by the IOC during Samaranch's own presidency.

The first modern Games in Athens attracted 295 amateur athletes from 13 nations, although most of the participants were Greek. The centennial summer games in

Atlanta in 1996 will attract 10,000 mostly professional athletes representing as many as 200 national Olympic committees. And while the first Games were rescued from financial collapse by a wealthy Greek benefactor, the modern Olympics are now hugely profitable. Current IOC revenue forecasts for the four-year period leading up to Atlanta are around dollars 2.5bn ( pounds 1.6bn).

The centenary celebrations are to be followed by the IOC's Centennial Congress, beginning in Paris on 29 August. The congress, involving representatives of all the leading sports as well as national and Olympic officials, is to establish the movement's direction into the next century.