Sacred Olympia, the birthplace of the Ideals to which Coubertin had devoted his life, always held a special place in his heart.

After his death in 1937, according to his last wishes, his heart was taken to Olympia, to rest in peace forever in the commemorative stele, which had been commissioned in his honour by the Greek government in 1927. The stele stands in the Coubertin Grove and is a part of the IOA grounds. Every Session of the IOA starts with the ceremonial laying of wreaths at Coubertin's stele and that of the founding fathers of the Academy, John Ketseas and Carl Diem, in honour of their vision and life's work.

The Coubertin Grove is also visited and paid homage to by the first runner in the Olympic torch relay, following the lighting of the Olympic Flame on the Altar of Hera in Ancient Olympia. The runner lights a marble altar in the Grove, in honour of the man who revived the Olympic Games, and afterwards sets off, thus beginning the traditional race to Athens and ending up at the host city.


John Ketseas, a member of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, and Carl Diem, a close associate of Coubertin were the founding fathers of the IOA. Through their continuous efforts over two decades, their dream of a cultural and educational institution in Olympia became a reality in 1961. John Ketseas became the first President and presided over the IOA till his death in 1965.

In their memory stands a monument by the Coubertin Grove in the IOA.

The opening ceremonies of each IOA Session, traditionally close with the laying of wreaths at the monuments of those men whose life efforts were aimed at creating a better world.

I come to Greece to search myself.

Carl DIEM, 1936

The pilgrimage to Olympia, where the heart of our founder, Pierre de Coubertin, rests and where, every two years, the Olympic Flame is lit, is not for us just a return to our roots, but an opportunity to communicate with the "Olympian" citizens of this ancient city.

Juan Antonio SAMARANCH