Coubertin family welcomes UIPM President and Commission Members to Paris (FRA)
The UIPM President, Dr Klaus Schormann, attended two days of meetings in Paris (FRA) designed to strengthen heritage and educational links with the family of the founder of Modern Pentathlon, Pierre de Coubertin.
With the Paris 2024 Olympic Games now just 18 months away, the Coubertin family is eager to promote the legacy of the man who was central to the revival of the Olympics and the philosophy of Olympism at the start of the 20th century.
UIPM also takes strong responsibility for telling the story of the origins of Modern Pentathlon, and promoting the positive values espoused by Coubertin, who created the five-discipline sport especially for the Olympic Games and introduced it to the world in Stockholm in 1912.
President Dr Schormann, who chairs the UIPM Pierre de Coubertin Commission, joined Commission Members Dora Pallis, Alain Lunzenfichter, Liston Bochette III and Alexandra de Navacelle de Coubertin (family representative) on the trip, also attended by the UIPM Executive Board Member for Marketing, Martin Dawe.
They visited the Coubertin Castle near Paris, the Chateau de Mirville – his summer home in Normandy – and finally La Sorbonne university. This was where Coubertin arranged the first Olympic Congress in 1894, an event that led both to the rebirth of the Olympic Games two years later in Athens, and the formation of the International Olympic Committee.
During the visit, Alexandra de Navacelle introduced the UIPM delegation to fellow Coubertin descendants Yvan de Navacelle, Jacques de Navacelle, Thibaut de Navacelle and Francois-Marie de Chillaz.
UIPM President Dr Schormann said: “We are so thankful that members of the UIPM Pierre de Coubertin Commission had the chance to enjoy deep discussions with the Coubertin family during this visit.
“It was fascinating to visit locations that were so special to Coubertin himself, including the 16th-century castle in Normandy where he lived. We got a lot of background information about the whole society, about the origins of Pierre and his family. It’s important to understand that Coubertin was not only an educator who created the modern Olympic movement, he was also an artist and a writer.
“The Commission discussed a number of activities that will start in the coming year to enlarge the knowledge of athletes, from the youngest to the most high-profile, in preparation for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 in Coubertin’s home country.
“Promoting the legacy and heritage of Coubertin is one of UIPM’s main goals, and we do so with close cooperation with the Pierre de Coubertin Committee under the leadership of Prof Dr Stephan Wassong, and other societies like the Olympic Academies and the International Olympic Academy in Olympia.
“We hope to give our athletes a better understanding of where our sport originated – from the movement of Coubertin, who created Modern Pentathlon as the only sport designed especially for the Olympic Games.
“During the trip we also discussed our mutual understanding of the historic changes in our sport, and it was clearly underlined by all the living members of the Coubertin family that had the Baron been with us today, he would choose to introduce other disciplines, just as he did in the beginning of the 20th century when the ancient Pentathlon was modernised.
“Therefore, we are living in the philosophy of Coubertin, following the advice of his statements and making sure that his vision remains intact to this day.”
Alexandra de Navacelle added: “L’Association Familiale Pierre de Coubertin took great pleasure in taking the UIPM Pierre de Coubertin Commission members on a two-day visit following the footsteps of Pierre de Coubertin and his family.
“We were especially touched by the interest and attention that the Commission Members expressed in understanding Coubertin's roots and the historical context he lived it. We look forward to collaborating with the UIPM on cultural programmes to promote the philosophy behind the Olympics!”
Alain Lunzenfichter, a renowned former editor of L’Equipe newspaper who was President of the World Association of Olympic Journalists from 2006-2014, wrote his own description of the experience, an English translation of which appears below.
Most people know the story of Pierre de Coubertin and that of the renovation of the modern Olympic Games at the Sorbonne on 23 June, 1894 and the birth of the IOC. This is the official side of its extraordinary story, but it is only the tip of its iceberg, the unknown part is just as abundant.
This is what the UIPM Pierre de Coubertin Commission tried to discover during a rainy weekend in mid-November 2022. In fact, we discovered not only Pierre de Coubertin, but also his entire family. That of the past but also that which still perpetuates the memory of the renovator today.
In fact, President Klaus Schormann at the head of the Commission was surprised by the traces left by Pierre de Coubertin and his family in Paris and Mirville, Normandy, where the renovator of the Olympic Games spent all his youth.
The first stop of the commission at the Coubertin Foundation in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse in the suburbs of Paris. This foundation was born from the meeting of Yvonne de Coubertin, Pierre's niece, humanist of conviction and Jean Bernard, artist and stonemason. President of the Fénelon association, she made her life and fortune available to this association and was keen to offer young girls accommodation that did not exist at the beginning of the 1920s.
Very quickly the foundation became mixed and became a workers' university which welcomed each year about 30 young men and women exercising a manual trade with board and lodging in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse. They were dedicated to the trades of carpentry, metalwork, stone cutting and masonry as well as foundry and boilermaking.
These young people dedicated their time to working for the Rodin Museum, for the renovation of many sites throughout the France and in particular the gates of honour of the Palace of Versailles, where coincidentally, the Modern Pentathlon events will take place during the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
With Alexandra de Navacelle de Coubertin, Member of our Commission, we visited the Sorbonne where Pierre de Coubertin gave his speech on the renovation of the Olympic Games on June 23, 1894. It was moving to see the plaque in the office on the first floor of the University that traces this event.
In the company of Yvan de Navacelle we were able to admire the paintings of Charles de Coubertin, Pierre's father. They are enthroned in the churches of the Foreign Mission and Saint-Ignace in Paris. The Commission then took the direction of Normandy and its green countryside.
After almost three hours’ drive we arrived at a beautiful house of the 16th century, recognized as a historical monument in 1975, where each room retains the feeling of the presence of Pierre de Coubertin. The small lake adjoining the castle still resonates with the bursts of voices of the renovator who rowed there. Jacques de Navacelle, with a brief history of the castle, gave the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the family of Pierre de Coubertin, the inventor of the Modern Pentathlon