On 14th June, the International Olympic Academy celebrated its 50th birthday.This important organization for the Olympic movement receives nearly no press attention, is funded by the Hellenic Olympic Committtee and is located in Olympia, Greece.
However, it is the most important contributor to Olympic education around the world. My early experience of the Olympics took place here where, as a doctoral student, I was fortunate enough to take part in the International Seminar for Postgraduate Students. Since then, I have been back numerous times to give lectures to students in the same session, as well as talks for the Higher Education Institute session. I also visited as part of the Scholars for Olympia 'pilgrimage' , after the 2007 fires in Greece, which devastated Olympia. Fortunately, the Academy survived, thanks to the local village community's protection.
What distinguishes the IOA experience is the range of international people that visit and spend time living with each other. Lectures are often critical of the Olympic movement, but there is a common interest, fascination and passion for being around the Olympics, which all who attend share. It is a in a beautiful, remote part of Greece and sits alongside the Ancient Olympic Stadium, which is both a tourist destination and the site where the Olympic flame is lit in advance of each Games.
For all who attend - Olympic critics and fans - the Academy is a remarkable, often life-changing place. It's also one of the few places where I'm prepared to forego my individuality and don on a suit for the ceremonies.
This year, the IOA will publish a book commemorating its first 50 years and I have made a contribution. Here are some photographs:
The Academy grounds after the 2007 fires - there were trees standing all around until then.
Coubertin Monument after the 2007 fire