June 23, 1894. French baron Pierre de Coubertin founds the International Olympic Committee at the Sorbonne University in Paris. The Ancient Olympics in Greece were stopped at the end of the fourth century AD and multi-sport tournaments bearing the name Olympic began sprouting up as early the 17th century. It was at one such tournament in England that Coubertin was inspired to formally re-introduce the Olympic Games of the modern era, the first of which was held in Athens in 1896. The five Olympic rings (each symbolising one of the world’s inhabited continents at the time) were first presented at the Antwerp games in 1920, while the motto Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) was introduced at the outset of the IOC. 1924 saw the first Winter Olympic Games, which were held in Chamonix. The IOC’s mission statement is to “contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination or any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” Just 241 athletes from 14 countries took part in Athens in 1896, while more than 10,000 athletes from 204 nations took part in Beijing in 2008.
Also on June 23: Gamal Abdel Nasser is elected President of Egypt (1956); Moldova declares its independence (1991); US mafia boss John Gotti is sentenced to life in prison (1992).
Born on June 23: Martti Ahtisaari (1937), Jean Tigana (1955), Frances McDormand (1957), Zinedine Zidane (1972), Duffy (1984).