The reunion at Lausanne University in 1913 took the Olympic Congress to an altogether higher intellectual plane. No less than the “psychology and physiology of sport” were under the microscope as the increasing success of the Olympic Games, most recently in Stockholm in 1912, prompted questions relating to the demands of competitive sport and whether it caused more harm than good. Among the 100 or so participants were several academics, while many scientists from abroad submitted written presentations.
Quest for records
The first meeting started with the reading of a paper by former US President Theodore Roosevelt, which told the audience how he had developed from a weak and feeble boy to a self-confident man by practising sport. A lecture on The Team demonstrated how team members can develop into “important social elements of society” while another presentation questioned whether the quest for records was exaggerated and degrading to sport.
At times the Congress lacked proven scientific evidence concerning the effects of physical activity, which may explain why few recommendations were made. The success of the Congress of Lausanne lay more in the exceptional speeches that were made and the nature of the debate. In later years Coubertin referred to Lausanne as “the birth of the psychology of sport”, while Dr Maurice Millioud, a professor of philosophy who presided over the meetings and directed discussions to a great extent, wrote: “Not all questions could be answered but a lot of questions have been asked and they cannot be forgotten.”