The Charter for Sport Reform

Jean Durry

In 1930, the Bureau international de pédagogie sportive(BIPS) published the text of the Charter for Sport Reform, which was not signed but was actually drafted by Pierre de Coubertin, who was then 67 years of age. It is a seven-page brochure published in five versions: German, English, Spanish, French and Italian. Shortly after, they also appeared in bulletin 3 of the BIPS.

Navacelle Collection

This is a good illustration of the way in which Coubertin’s work continued after he retired in 1925 from the active presidency of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and became its Honorary Life President, a distinction which was intended to be exclusive but was later awarded to Juan Antonio Samaranch.


On 25th May 1925, therefore, in his opening speech at Prague City Hall for the exceptional double Olympic Congress (technical and pedagogical), during which he also made a farewell speech, he indicated that he would be picking up what had, from the outset, been his guiding thread. He wanted to devote his time to “the advent of an educational philosophy that produces mental clarity and critical calm”.[1]

Coubertin at the Olympic Congress in Prague
accompanied by Gut-Jarkowsky (left) and his wife (right)

Thus, on 15th November 1925 in Aix-en-Provence, he inaugurated the work of the Universal Pedagogical Union, which organized from 14th to 16th September 1926, in Ouchy, an international conference on the pedagogical role of the modern city, concluding with the declaration of the human right to sport and access to general culture. Furthermore, every year, it published four important handbooks; then, having operated according to one of the principles dear to Coubertin, intermittence, it was voluntarily dissolved at the end of 1930.

Continuing to follow closely the development of Olympism through his correspondence, articles, conferences and calls to athletes and organising committees of the successive editions of the Olympic Games, also by way of radio broadcasts (to the sporting youth of all nations on 17th April 1927 from Olympia; and on the philosophical foundations of modern Olympism in 1935), he was simultaneously focused on the development of the sporting phenomenon.


Connecting his various concerns, he announced in Le Sport suisseon 3rd April 1928 the creation of the Bureau international de pédagogie sportive, whose bulletin was published until 1933, then continuing in the form of columns in Le Sport suisse until May 1934. It was the BIPS that put forward in 1930 the Charter for Sport Reform. In the opening sentences, Coubertin addresses deplorable developments in sports, to which he had already referred in his speech delivered at the first working meeting of the BISP in November 1928:


“The objections brought against Sport may be classed under three headings:
  • That it strains and overtaxes the body.
  • That it assists in dulling the intellect.
  • That it spreads a commercial spirit and breeds a love of money.
It is impossible to deny the existence of these evils, but the Sports themselves are not responsible for them.”[2]


In approximately 50 lines, the charter sets out some 19 practical proposals that are extremely varied in nature and presented as “measures for salvation”. Although some might seem irrelevant nowadays, several others cannot fail to rouse interest, such as: establishing a clear distinction between physical culture and sport education on the one hand, and sport education and competition on the other; municipal authorities putting a stop to the construction of huge stadiums only for sporting events; developing sport medicine with a focus on one’s state of health; and educating the sporting media by way of including articles on foreign policy and global events.


What impact and actual influence did this charter have? How was it disseminated? Coubertin obviously had no more resources than he had had at the helm of the International Olympic Committee; however, this text bears witness, if proof were necessary, to the fact that, with the same youthful confidence, he fought to the end with the courage of his convictions, having written as far back as 1902:


“Life is simple, because the fight is simple. A good fighter steps back, but never abandons; he cedes, but never gives up […]. Life is beautiful, because the fight is beautiful […] the fight of souls in search of truth, light and justice.”[3]



[1] Coubertin quoted in: International Olympic Committee (Editing Director: Norbert Müller): Pierre de Coubertin 1863 – 1937. Olympism Selected Writings. Lausanne 2000, 555.

[2] Ibid., 237.

[3]Translation from: Coubertin Pierre de: Le Roman d`un Rallié. Auxere. 1902.