The Founder of Judo Supports the Olympic Movement
by Neil Ohlenkamp

Kano IOC recommendationJigoro Kano

In January 1909 Jigoro Kano was nominated to serve on the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In May 1909 at its meeting in Berlin, the IOC under the leadership of Baron de Coubertin unanimously elected Jigoro Kano as the first member of the IOC from an Asian country.

Baron de CoubertinPierre Frédy, known as the Baron de Coubertin (1 January 1863 – 2 September 1937) was the founder of the International Olympic Committee and is considered to be the father of the modern Olympic Games. De Coubertin expressed his ideal philosophy of athletic competition as “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” After the successful 1924 Olympics in Paris, de Coubertin retired from the IOC presidency. Coubertin died in Geneva in 1937 and was buried in Lausanne, except for his heart, which was removed and interred in a memorial adjacent to the ruins of ancient Olympia according to his wishes.

Consistent with the ideals of budo, the Olympic Charter states that “Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. The goal of Olympism is to place everywhere sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to encouraging the establishment of a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

Some say that Jigoro Kano became the “Baron de Coubertin of Japan” in his promotion of sporting ideals and the Olympic spirit, and he is widely considered the “Father of Sport” in Japan. He served faithfully on the International Olympic Committee for 29 years until his death. The letter shown below from Jigoro Kano to Baron de Coubertin is his acceptance of the membership. Click on the image below for a larger version.

1909 Letter from Jigoro Kano to Baron de Coubertin

The full text of the letter follows.

Baron de Coubertin,
Dear Sir,
Your letter of June 15th has been duely received. I had already been informed by the French
Ambassador Mons. Gérard that the Comité International Olympique has requested H. E. to
nominate a gentleman of Japan interested in the work and object of the above society, as a
member for Japan, and it is with genuine pleasure that I received your communication of my
having been unanimously elected a member at the meeting of your committee held in Berlin May
last.
As to the possibility of my been present at the next meeting to be held next year in Budapest, I
cannot say anything definitely about it at present, but I will try to attend the meeting of the Vth
Olympiad in 1912 at Stockholm, if circumstances allow me to do so.
The “Revue Olympique” as well as your recently published book “Une Campagne de vingt-et-un
ans” I have duly received for which publications please to accept my most cordial thanks.
I have also forwarded my annual subscription ( 25 francs) to the Treasurer, Baron Godefroid de
Blonay.
Thanking you once more for your cordial letter, I remain, my dear sir and colleague,
Yours sincerely,
Jigoro Kano

In July 1911, Jigoro Kano founded and became the first chairman of the Japan Amateur Athletic Association (today’s Japan Sports Association). Olympic qualifying events were held that November and two athletes were selected to represent Japan for the first time in the Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden in 1912.

This page is written by and is copyright © 2009 by Neil Ohlenkamp, JudoInfo.com.