Sold! Pierre de Coubertin’s Olympic founding text is heading home

The 1892 manuscript was brought at auction by Alisher Usmanov and donated to The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

By Andrew Binner ·

The Olympic Manifesto, written in 1892 by the founder of the modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, has sold at auction and will live in The Olympic Museum.

President of the International Fencing Federation, Alisher Usmanov, purchased the historic document after a 12-minute bidding battle.

He then donated it to the museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, saying, "I believe that The Olympic Museum is the most appropriate place to keep this priceless manuscript.”

“Today we are witnessing history," International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said.

"At one level, we are witness to this historic document, the manuscript of the speech that laid out the philosophical foundations of the Olympic Movement.

On another level, we are witnessing a historic moment, with this manuscript returning to its Olympic home, the place where it belongs.” - IOC President Thomas Bach

On permanent display at The Olympic Museum

The 5000 word, 14-page document lays out De Coubertin's original plans to revive the Olympic Games, and contains the speech in which he first presented his vision to the world.

He delivered it on 25 November 1892 at the old Sorbonne, in Paris, when the Frenchman was just 29-years-old. Two years later, in the same auditorium, the decision to re-establish the Olympic Games was formalised.

Coubertin finishes the manifesto by making the case for his vision of how the modern Olympic Games could help build a better world through sport:

“Those who have seen 30,000 people running through the rain to attend a football match will not think that I am exaggerating. Let us export rowers, runners and fencers… I hope that you will help me as you have helped me thus far and that, with you, I shall be able to continue and realise, on a basis appropriate to the conditions of modern life, this grandiose and beneficent work: the re-establishment of the Olympic Games.”

The manifesto subsequently went missing during the World Wars, but was eventually tracked down to a collector in Switzerland.

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Family pride

The document has been a source of excitement for the Olympic family, and one of pride for De Coubertin's direct decedents as well.

“For our family, it is remarkable and a source of great pride to see in writing the foresight that my great-uncle had," Alexandra de Navacelle de Coubertin, President of the Pierre de Coubertin Family Association, said.

"Well over a hundred years ago, he clearly understood how sport can change the world, and what an enormous power for good the Olympic Games could be, at his time and in the future. "

"It is so reassuring and a great emotional moment to see Pierre de Coubertin’s Olympic Manifesto back in the hands of the Olympic Movement at The Olympic Museum, where it can be appreciated by the millions of fans from around the world."

Original pages from the manifesto, showing intriguing revisions, will now go on display at The Olympic Museum – the first time they have been shown to the public. The full document will eventually be put on permanent display.