Olympic Structures
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Apr 1975, p. 386-399
Killanin, Lord, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Some background to the controversies that have plagued the Olympic Movement in recent years, particularly with regard to staging the Olympic Games. Controversies that tend to reflect problems of scale. The size and complexity of hosting operations. Problems that result not from the Olympic Movement, but from success, because other interests recognize the appeal of that success. The growth in the need for housing facilities and the accompanying communications services. Reasons for the trend to vast spectaculars and vast expenditures on structures and facilities, particularly with regard to business, industry and governments. Specific details of the Olympic Games to be held in Montreal in 1976. The human structures. Detailed remarks on the International Olympic Committee, their delegates, and the Olympic concept. The athletes. The Olympic Village. Values of the Olympic Games.
Date of Original
24 Apr 1975
Language of Item
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
APRIL 24, 1975
Olympic Structures
CHAIRMAN The President, Sir Arthur Chetwynd


My Lord, Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen: In the press of time on this, our annual meeting day, we are fortunate in having a speaker who is so well known that his introduction can be tailored to meet the constraints of time--thus leaving our guest a longer period to speak to us on the subject of the 1976 Olympic Games. Lord Killanin's life to date has been filled with activity, service, accomplishment and honours. Consider all of these facets of his exciting career:

- He was educated at Eton, the Sorbonne and Cambridge University.

- He was an athlete-he boxed and rowed.

- He was a journalist on Fleet Street. In 1937-38 he was a war correspondent in the Chinese-Japanese war.

- In 1938 he joined the King's Royal Rifle Corps. He took part in the invasion of Normandy, for which he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire.

- He has been a film producer and script writer, involved in the production of a number of films. He was associated with the late John Ford in the making of "The Quiet Man".

Your president has a kinship with our speaker in this regard, although I have never been accused of being a "quiet man". Our kinship extends to the fact that our families, that is our wives and children, are also involved in the lively arts. Even our family mottos have a similar and useful ring. The English translation of Lord Killanin's family motto is "If God be with us, who can be against us?" and my own family motto is "What God wills, let it be", both handy reminders of the strength of the deity and an acceptance of life as it is.

- He is a member of the board of directors of some seventeen companies and corporations. To name a few: Irish Shell and BP Limited, Northern Electric Company (Ireland), Irish Off-Shore Oil Ltd., Ulster Bank Ltd.

- He has served the Irish Government in cultural matters, and done a lengthy stint with the Irish Red Cross Society. He has also served as chairman of the Galway Race Committee.

- In 1950 he was elected President of the Olympic Council of Ireland and is now President of the International Olympic Committee, the committee responsible for staging the Olympic Games, an event of great importance to Canadians, as the next Olympics will be held in Canada in 1976.

- Lord Killanin has been decorated by some dozen countries, other than his own.

- Our speaker today, then, comes from an old and celebrated family. His family, one of the fourteen "tribes" of Galway, dates back to the 14th century under the family name of Morris. He will speak to us about an event which had its beginnings hundreds of years B.C. and now is to be staged in the modern trappings of the city of Montreal.

The Olympics is invariably a controversial event, and yet at its heart it carries the high purpose of international peace and in its symbolic flame the high ideal of the brotherhood of man. Lord Killanin's career to date--his dedication, his determination, his sense of service and goodwill--seems to have provided an admirable training ground to fit him philosophically for his present challenging task, even as other training grounds are now fitting literally thousands of young athletes for the high and demanding sacrifice required by the Olympic standards.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a great honour to introduce to you the President of the International Olympic Committee, Lord Killanin. My Lord.


Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen: I am very happy to be invited to address you at this lunch in my capacity as President of the International Olympic Committee. This is not the first time that I have visited Toronto but it is the first time in this particular capacity. I must say I have fairly vivid recollections of some of my previous visits. Some years ago, I arrived on the 12th of July. I also arrived, once, rather thirsty on a Sunday! I attended, in this hotel, a Variety Club convention of which I have two memories. One is being kissed by Joan Crawford--we were both very much younger!

As for the other--I was with a delegation from Dublin, trying to get the convention of the Variety Club to Dublin. I wandered around this hotel, with a very large paper shamrock. Written on it was "Dublin for you in '62!" We were competing (rather as people try to get the Olympic Games) and the opposition was Houston, Texas. We had to make a bid, and explain all the facilities we had in Dublin for a convention. I was very proud because I had got from the Tourist Board the number of baths, and the number of beds, and the baths per bed, and all the different statistics. I thought I was doing very well till the gentleman from Texas got up and said he was very sorry to prick my balloon, but in Houston, Texas, not only was there one bathroom to every bedroom, but there were two! So I had to explain rather contritely that in Ireland we were very old-fashioned--we put the hot and cold water in the same bath! Anyhow, we got the convention.

Many times I much prefer speaking off the cuff, but as today this is recorded, and what I have to say I wish to say with some care, I will therefore stick fairly closely to a script.

On July 17th next year the XXIst Olympic Games will open in Montreal. At the same time, certain of the preliminaries in such sports as football, and basketball, will be taking place in other cities, one of which is Toronto, and the yachting events at Kingston, Ontario, which is represented today by the Mayor, and which city I am going to visit tomorrow.

How did this come about? Why is it happening? And what is the use of it all?

In selecting for my topic "Olympic Structures", I realized the title might immediately call to mind those structures in Montreal that have been the subject of so much concern and media comment--the Stadium and the Athlete's Village. These are not, however, the structures I have in mind.

As I am, from here, on my way to Montreal to meet with the Organizing Committee (which is represented by Ambassador Rousseau today), the President and Commissioner, and to see for myself the current state of progress, I will naturally refrain from anticipating the results of that visit by comment at this time. But I have already had preliminary reports from friends who have been there, and I must admit I am going to Montreal in a very optimistic frame of mind.

However, before I discuss the structures I have in mind, I can perhaps help clarify some of the background to the controversies that have plagued the Olympic Movement in recent years--particularly with regard to staging the Olympic Games. The controversies tend to reflect problems of scale.

The size and complexity of hosting operations have grown to immense proportions and the Olympic Movement too often gets blamed for problems that really result from success, problems that accrue because other interests recognize the appeal of that success.

We have been accused of leaving white elephants behind on the sites of Olympic Games. Obviously this is not our intention, nor is it an Olympic requirement. Of course, the Olympic Movement's growth has contributed to the complexities in Olympic Games operations, but it is worthwhile to examine the true nature of this particular pressure. I do not believe that any city or country has ever regretted staging the Games.

You will, of course, recognize that a track with eight lanes can only accommodate eight racers. The growth in the number of Olympic competitors does not mean bigger tracks with more lanes, but simply more time to stage preliminary events to identify the eight finalists.

Thus the growth of the Olympic Movement over the past few decades, with some fifty new National Olympic Committees joining in over the past twenty years, has meant considerable pressure on the time dimensions of the games.

There has been a trend in Olympic countries to enter in more of the Olympic Sports disciplines, and also an increase in women's participation, so we need more time for diving, more time in the pool for swimming heats, more time in the rowing basin and in the sports halls.

Hosting countries, reflecting the increased participation in more of the Olympic Sports disciplines, have tended to plan for all, or almost all, the recognized Olympic events although this is not an I.O.C. requirement. They are required to stage only sixteen of the twenty-one Olympic Summer Sports on their programme. Twenty-one were staged at Munich, and twenty-one were offered by the three candidate cities when Montreal was successful, and twenty-one sports are on the programme for Moscow in 1'980.

All of this does not create a need for bigger stadia or swimming pools. It does mean a need to have them available for a day, or two, or three, longer to accommodate the growing number of required preliminaries.

However, in one area there has been a major increase in facilities scale. That is in housing. The growth of the Games which now involves five to six thousand athletes plus coaches, trainers, the medical support staff and the administrators, calls for an Olympic Village of considerable size. I am the first one to admit that the word "village" is possibly no longer apt, but we use it in a traditional way.

This, however, is not usually a problem for most hosting cities because they generally need new housing, and the Olympic requirements simply stimulate desire to acquire that needed housing more quickly. We do not need luxury accommodation, but we do want the athletes housed together, so that they can relax and mingle with each other, have needed privacy and now, of course, reasonable security arrangements to combat the behaviour of extremists.

Coming to Montreal, as a direct result of the growth in the Olympic Games, will be a media contingent of some five thousand reporters, broadcasters and camera men. Strictly speaking this group is not part of the Olympic requirement, but is, rather, a remarkable testimony to the world-wide appeal of the games. However, it is, of course, a very welcome and desirable dimension to the Olympic Games, and to accommodate this contingent, both for housing and working facilities, there is a problem of space and communications servicing.

To put all this in perspective, however, we are talking now of some ten to fifteen thousand persons attending officially, besides the tens of thousands of tourists and spectators. Numbers should not necessarily be a problem.

By now you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Why the trend to vast spectaculars and vast expenditures on structures and facilities? The answer to that lies not with the International Olympic Committee, nor with the National Olympic Committees, but with business, industry and governments. With the skyrocketing surge of interest in the Games and the stupendous range of media coverage, business and governments saw a staggering opportunity to tell their stories to the world.

Host cities were able to capitalize on Olympic interest to justify rapid development of infrastructures such as ring-roads, underground transport, new sports facilities, and so on. National governments saw opportunity to tell the world, via Olympic exposure, about their tourist attractions, their industrial resources, their cultural standards and their social objectives.

The Olympic Movement, the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee do not themselves demand lavish extravagances or vast expenditures for this facility or that civic improvement.

It is the dividends available to business, to industry and to governments that create the demand for more, better, and more sophisticated showcases for the Games. Our athletes and our sports events need little of this and indeed there is some concern that they may be more the victims than beneficiaries of this growth of peripheral development. And now we come to Canada, and Montreal in 1976.

Montreal applied in 1966 for the 1972 Games and in 1970 made a successful bid against Los Angeles and Moscow. The Montreal application had considerable appeal to the I.O.C. for several reasons. It is, of course, a very attractive city of world-wide fame for its colour, hospitality and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Canada had never before hosted the Games and yet had been a strong supporter of the Olympic Movement from its earliest days. Expo had demonstrated that Canada and Montreal could stage a major event with flair and imagination, yet keep the event within the human scale.

But there were other, more pragmatic factors that appealed to the I.O.C.

Montreal plans called for many of the preliminaries to take place in existing, smaller halls, with the final events in selected larger halls suitable for this particular purpose. There were no plans for many large facilities, built for specialist sports, and which might never be used again. The plans did call for a new stadium, suitable for Track and Field events, for the opening and closing ceremonies, where the soccer finals will be held and where the very popular Prix des Nations equestrian jumping event is staged. Montreal plans included incorporation of a swimming pool in this complex, as well as the press centre.

Thinking beyond the Olympics to other sports events on a year-round basis, the stadium is planned to suit the local climatic conditions for twelve months of the year.

Another element of Montreal planning that appealed to the I.O.C. was its scheme of self financing. This is the first time that this has been attempted on a 100% basis. Munich raised 75% of the costs by coin sales and other schemes, but of course, a big difference between Munich and Montreal lies in the fact that Montreal already has, as a legacy of Expo, much of the infrastructures Munich had to build.

However, as I started out to say, Olympic structures are not steel and concrete, but human structures.

First, the structure over which I preside, the International Olympic Committee. This is a self-perpetuating body which now has seventy-eight members from sixty-five countries and an unwritten ceiling of eighty members and a maximum of two from any one country in special circumstances. When first elected to the I.O.C. in 1952, having been President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, I felt that the format should be changed to one country one vote, but I am now convinced that the founder, Baron de Coubertin was wise. We have our difficulties and problems, many of them political, but I believe these would be much greater if the I.O.C. were just a place for promoting to or unloading people from the National Olympic Committees, although most of its members have had long experience on National Olympic Committees or Sports Federations.

The I.O.C. is entrusted with the responsibility for developing and promoting the Olympic concept. The I.O.C. determines the rules of entry into Olympic participation based on its trusteeship responsibilities and the evolving conditions in sports activity.

In turn, the International Olympic Committee delegates responsibility for Olympic matters within each country to a National Olympic Committee. These can be formed when the country has at least five active sports associations, that are recognized by the international sport federations within the Olympic family of sports. There are twenty-one such international federations recognized for participation in the Olympic Summer Games.

The International Federations are omnipotent bodies for their own sports at all times. For the Games, in conjunction with the COJOs (the organizing committees), they control all technical matters, whether equipment or personnel. They work closely with the I.O.C., with whom they have regular meetings, and as mentioned, their affiliates from the National Olympic Committees. The National Olympic Committees in turn have the sole authority to accredit athletes of their country for entry into the Games. The National Olympic Committees, in concert with the I.O.C., have also another responsibility, which is to promote the Olympic concept.

The Olympic Games are simply the most visible, the most dramatic aspect of the Olympic Movement. They are not in themselves the purpose of the movement, but are a showcase of the concept and its progress.

Quite naturally, the Games draw the greatest degree of attention and interest. The excitement, the desire to excel, the urge to establish performance records have, in fact, often combined to obscure the fundamental purpose of the Games and the Olympic Movement.

The Olympic concept is a philosophical approach to life. This concept finds a common denominator amongst all people of the world, a common denominator in an effort to develop the perfect man or woman, which means both physical and intellectual growth. Despite the motto Citius Altius Fortius (Swifter Higher Stronger), the objective of the Olympic Games is not to beat all previous records. It is to meet, to compete, and try to win.

The appeal of a record performance, or of an unofficial, but documented, points victory by one country over another or many others, is obvious. This is something that we do not necessarily encourage. The fact that this appeal exists, and that too often it may distort the involvement of an athlete, a team or a national contingent does not indicate that the Olympic ideals, or the objectives are at fault and somehow lacking.

The interesting part of this appeal for records and medals in the Olympic Games is that there are so many other occasions where similar records and similar symbols of victory can be obtained. Almost every Olympic sport has world and regional championships. Why then does a victory at the Olympics seem so special, so significant?

There are several reasons.

No single amateur, non-professional World Championship event attracts the interest of the world as does a final of that event in an Olympic Games situation. A gold medal in Olympic competition is more than just another gold medal-it is an Olympic Gold medal with an aura of its own. And, for most competitors, the cycle of four years between Games means a once-in-a-lifetime chance at an Olympic award.

But also there is in the Olympic Games the recognition of the idealism of the Olympic concept. By today's standards this idealism may seem, as so many media commentators imply, far beyond the reach of man and totally unrealistic.

But youth is idealistic and those of us who can no longer claim chronological youth need never forego a yearning for something better, the development of humans more finely tuned mentally, spiritually and physically.

This is the goal of the Olympic Movement and therein lies its widespread and growing appeal. The Games are the festival of the Movement, the occasion when athletes from around the world gather, mingle, compete, and reflect, in their performances, the growth of the Movement in their own lands.

In the opening ceremonies, when the contingents march in country by country, there are large teams of one hundred, two hundred, three hundred or more athletes from countries with long sports traditions and strong economies. And there are contingents from newer countries, with struggling economies and emerging sports programs, with only a handful of athletes, maybe only one athlete to represent it.

But these smaller contingents represent more than their Olympic Committee-they represent the gradual, but steady growth of sports as a link between societies, between countries, between individuals in a common denominator, sharing an idealistic concept.

And in that parade will be athletes who are big, and strong, athletes who are slight in stature, athletes in their early teens, and athletes in their middle years, young girls from swimming and gymnastics, graceful and fresh of face, and middle-aged men with faces tanned and wrinkled, from sun and wind and saltwater spray from yachting. There are tall basketball players, wide shouldered and squat weight lifters, pony-tailed young ladies from volleyball, and heavyset women who excel in the shotput. It's an incredible, dramatic, and heart-warming parade of races, creeds, and countries, united within the Olympic world.

Behind these athletes, back home in a hundred and thirty-two different countries, are other groups linked to the scene by long years of volunteer work as coaches, organizers, supporters of community sports activity from which the Olympic athletes emerged. Every day now, sports pages throughout the world's press are reporting on their National Olympic possibilities. These groups are other structures of the Olympics, structures that serve their own small segment of world society and serve the world in fostering the concept of the Olympic Movement.

We have the I.O.C., we have the National Olympic Committees, we have the Sports Federations at international, national, and regional levels. We have community sports programmes, and groupings of sports, working to develop events, such as the Pan-American Games, held in Winnipeg, and the Commonwealth Games which Canada will host in 1978 in Edmonton. And so it goes on around the world.

A new, emerging nation, hampered by economic problems, can still find within the Olympic Movement, sports that are within their means to develop and foster, sport structures that will give their people a goal, and perhaps some day a chance to meet with hundreds of other young people from other new or long established nations in our Olympic Village.

One of the most appealing sights in an Olympic Village is the gatherings of world athletes exchanging pins, and mementoes. Getting to know each other and, for many, forming life long friendships with athletes from other countries. Surely this is a worthwhile objective.

There in the Village and the arena, for a few days only, but probably the most memorable days of their lives, some five thousand athletes will benefit from years of practice, training and community help back home. And they will return to their communities, all of them winners, whether they win a medal or not.

I can think of other Olympic structures that reflect the values of Olympic ideals. One that appeals to me, in particular, was a club formed as Friends of the Olympics, and by membership fees and assessments, arranged to bring some deserving individuals to Munich to enjoy the games. There was a Greek javelin thrower who had suffered severe burns to his throwing hand and could no longer compete. And there was Chi Cheng, a world record holder in the women's 100 metre sprint, who suffered injury and could no longer compete. There was a pistol marksman from Bolivia who was able to compete in Munich only because this small group of enthusiasts heard of his need and found the funds to cover his travel costs.

These are just a few of the Olympic structures that are formed and contribute to a better sports world and thus a better world. These are the true Olympic structures, the human structures that started back in 1896, with a handful of idealists recruited by Baron de Coubertin to form the first Olympic Committee. Each year now we see this repeated as other small groups of idealists form new national Olympic committees.

Problems we have and these we will resolve. We will encounter new problems as the Movement expands, problems that will challenge the temper of our determination, and tax our ingenuity before we find the appropriate answer. But as I said earlier, these are the problems of success, the problems we're happy to have.

Here in Canada, in Montreal you have encountered various problems in preparing to host the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. I am confident that these will be resolved by you just as I am confident that the Olympic Movement around the world will continue to resolve its problems.

I am confident because the concept of the Olympics, the whole man, as first pursued in ancient Greece, is the concept of accomplishment, of achievement of the highest order. Achievement is the foundation of our Olympic Structures.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Chairman and and members of the Empire Club for giving me this opportunity of speaking about the Olympic Movement.

Further, I would like to pay a tribute to all those who have spread the Olympic Movement from coast to coast in Canada. This of course includes the Canadian Olympic Association, presided over by Harold Wright, who is here today, but in addition, you have many other groups interested in the Olympic Movement. To mention but a few--the Olympic Club of Canada, which gathers together old Olympic competitors, the Olympic Trust of Canada, whose object is to raise funds and develop the Olympic Movement, the Young Olympians of Canada, the Junior Olympics and many other organisations, whose intention it is to promote the Olympic Movement throughout the country.

Lastly, I would like to say how pleased I am that Ambassador Rousseau is here, because he has the responsibility of organizing the Games in Montreal. He can rest assured that he has the support, not only of the International Olympic Committee, not only of all the Canadians, but also of every sporting organization and every National Olympic Committee in the world. Thank you very much and good luck for Montreal and Canada next year. May I just remind you that the date of the opening is July 17th.

Lord Killanin was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Col. Reginald W. Lewis, 3rd VicePresident.

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Olympic Structures

Some background to the controversies that have plagued the Olympic Movement in recent years, particularly with regard to staging the Olympic Games. Controversies that tend to reflect problems of scale. The size and complexity of hosting operations. Problems that result not from the Olympic Movement, but from success, because other interests recognize the appeal of that success. The growth in the need for housing facilities and the accompanying communications services. Reasons for the trend to vast spectaculars and vast expenditures on structures and facilities, particularly with regard to business, industry and governments. Specific details of the Olympic Games to be held in Montreal in 1976. The human structures. Detailed remarks on the International Olympic Committee, their delegates, and the Olympic concept. The athletes. The Olympic Village. Values of the Olympic Games.