News10 Sep 2002

The Past Presidents of the IAAF


Aside the present incumbent Lamine Diack, since the IAAF was founded in 1912 only four other Presidents have been elected by Congress

J Sigfried Edström

J Sigfried Edström (Sweden)
in office between 1912 and 1946

Born in Morlanda on November 21, 1870, Edström was educated in Gothenburg and then Zurich, Switzerland. An engineer by profession, he was a very good sprinter in his youth and set a Swedish 150m record. In 1901, he was elected as the president of the Swedish Athletic Association and two years later was one of the founders of the Swedish National Sports Foundation.

He was among the organisers of the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm and in this capacity sent written invitations to interested parties to attend the inaugural Congress on July 17, 1912, which lead to the formation of the IAAF.

The hallmark of his 34 years as president was a staunch defence of amateurism but his highly skilful leadership, aided by residing in a neutral country and linguistic skills which included speaking fluent German and English, helped the IAAF steadily expand its scope and influence as well as weather the storms brought about by two World Wars.

Edström stood down as IAAF president in 1946 to become the International Olympic Committee president, a post he held for six years before retiring at the age of 82. He died in Stockholm on March 18, 1964.

Lord Burghley

Lord Burghley (Great Britain)
in office between 1946 and 1976

Born David Cecil into an aristocratic family neat Stamford on February 9, 1905, he famously won the 1928 Olympic Games 400m hurdles gold medal in an Olympic record in 53.4. In 1931, he was elected as a Conservative Party member of the British Parliament, a position he kept for 12 years, although he was given leave of absence to compete at the 1932 Olympic Games.

He was also head of England's Amateur Athletic Association from 1936 to 1976. After service during World War II as the governor of Bermuda, Burghley was an instrumental part of the organisation of the 1948 Olympic Games in London.

Among Lord Burghley's many significant achievements were assisting the admission of the Soviet Union into international sporting bodies after World War II and dealing with the difficult issue of a divided Germany. Under Burghley - although he was also officially known as the 6th Marquess of Exeter after the death of his father in 1956 - athletics also enhanced its position within the Olympic movement and strengthened its financial position from the distribution of International Olympic Committee television revenues.

However, his final years as IAAF president before standing down in 1976 were turbulent, with many countries outside Europe were clamouring for a greater say in the decision making of the Federation. He died on October 22, 1981.

Adriaan Paulen

Adriaan Paulen (Netherlands)
in office between 1976 and 1981

Born in Haarlem on October 12, 1902, Paulen was a Dutch champion at 400m and 800m and a competitor at three Olympic Games. He also set a world record over 500m (which was then an official distance) in 1925 and was a motor sports fanatic, competing eight times in the Monte Carlo Rally.

During World War II, Paulen was a member of the Dutch resistance and was made a Colonel in the US Army. After the end of hostilities, he became the Dutch athletics federation president in 1946 and held that post until 1964. He was the director of the Dutch Olympic Committee between 1965 and 1970 but retained an extensive involvement with athletics, becoming the European Athletics Association president upon its formation in 1970 until 1976, when he was elected as the third IAAF president.

Curiously, at the age of 73, he was two years older than the man he was succeeding but Paulen was active in addressing many of the relevant issues of the changing times. The first IAAF World Cup in 1977 was contested during his brief presidency and he set in motion events that lead to the first IAAF World Championships in 1983.

Paulen stood down as IAAF president in 1981 and died in Eindhoven on May 9, 1985.

Dr Primo Nebiolo 14 Jul 1923 - 7 Nov 1999

Primo Nebiolo (Italy)
in office between 1981 and 1999

Born in Turin on July 14, 1923, Nebiolo studied law before a successful business career in construction.

His sporting achievements as a long jumper were relatively modest compared to other IAAF presidents but he quickly gained a reputation as an able administrator, doing much of the work that ensured his native city successfully staged the 1959 World Student Games.

He was elected president of FIDAL, the Italian athletics federation, in 1969 and three years later he was also elected to the IAAF Council before becoming president in 1981.

Nebiolo expanded the IAAF calendar into the form we know it today, especially with the introduction of events such as the IAAF World Junior Championships, as well as moving the show piece IAAF World Championships to a two-yearly cycle.

A pivotal moment in the political history of the IAAF came in 1987 when Nebiolo insisted on changes to the voting structure of Congress, which had been biased towards the 'traditional' powers', to one-member one-vote.

Nebiolo will also be remembered for substantially increasing the sport's finances revenues via commercial sponsorship and developing the IAAF's own television revenues as well as giving much greater attention to the issue of doping in sport and fighting drug cheats.

He suffered a fatal heart attack in Turin on November 7, 1999, the only president of the IAAF to die in office.

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