Olympism seen from Blonay

As the Olympic Games will take place in Rio de Janeiro this coming summer, it is worth remembering that 100 years ago the Olympic Committee moved to Lausanne and named a bourgeois of Blonay as President.

Photo of Godefroy de Blonay

Godefroy de Blonay

Son of the baron Gustave-Louis de Blonay banker and owner of de Grandson castle, Godefroy de Blonay attended Egyptology courses in Paris and became privat-docent at the Neuchâtel University in 1911. He was the first Swiss citizen to join the International Olympic Committee in 1899. At that time he went to the 1912 Stockholm Games. He came back to Switzerland an enthusiast. We should highlight that those competitions were, at that time, only for men and amateurs. Further, he founded the Swiss Olympic Committee in 1912. He undertook the presidency during 3 years, from 1912 to 1915. While his friend Pierre de Coubertin was enrolled in WW-I, he deputized the IOC presidency from 1916 to 1919. Later, in 1925, he became the Vice President of the executive commission. Then he remained an IOC member until he passed away in 1937, Biskra (Algeria).

The Berlin Olympic Games scheduled for 1916, having been cancelled due to the war, Godefroy de Blonay took effective part in the preparation of the Anvers Games, in 1920. There, the Olympic banner was hoisted for the first time as a symbol of the universal reconciliation while an athlete uttered the Olympic oath in the name of all athletes.
Today, to participate at the Olympic Games one must be registered in a National Federation and moreover satisfy performance criteria. At the time of Godefroy de Blonay it was different: the athletes registered for the games on their own. A common saying is “The most important thing is not winning but taking part.” This saying is partly from Pierre de Coubertin who is the initiator of the modern Olympic Games. Well, it is not exactly the case. The baron took this words from an oath of the Pennsylvania bishop Ethelbert Talbot, uttered the 19th of July 1908 during the London Olympic Games. As the facts were, during the athletic competitions, it appeared that the judging officials, who were mainly from England, were a bit too partial, according to the athletes.

In order to calm down, Pierre de Coubertin published, in the Olympic Magazine issued in July 1908 the following text: “Last Sunday, during the ceremony organized at the Saint Paul cathedral in honor of the athletes, the Pennsylvania Bishop did remind us in friendly words: ‘The important thing about these Olympic Games is less the winning than the taking part.’ Gentlemen, remember this strong sentiment, It spreads throughout all domains until forming the basis of the healthy and serene philosophy. The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the fight: ‘the essential is not winning but to have fought well’ ” –

Either at the world scene or at the local level, the Olympic motto “citius, altius, fortius” meaning “the fastest, the higher, the strongest,” should, in its principle despite it is often infringed, apply to the personal progresses that can be achieved respecting the health of our competitors.

Therefore, whatever the sport practiced, take part happily at the local level, good sport and nice day!

Gianni Ghiringhelli

[Article published in the Journal of information of the Municipalities of Blonay & St-Légier-La Chiesaz – No. 21 – March 2016.]

1. Women participate to the Olympic Games since 1900 (the first gold medal was Swiss – de Portalès for yachting competition) and many women took part in 1912 in particular in the 2 tennis tournament. The German woman champion was hit dead during the bombing of Dresden in 1945.

2. The Olympic banner was hoisted:
a) for the first time in the Chatby stadium of Alexandria (Egypt) in 1914 (celebrating the 20 years of the IOC).
b) in San Francisco, at the occasion of the Olympic day (Pan American exhibition) the 17th of March 1915.
c) Then in 1920, 2 American athletes carried it (return from San Francisco).