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Demetrios Vikelas (also Demetrius Bikelas; Greek: Δημήτριος Βικέλας; February 15, 1835[1] – July 20, 1908) was a Greek businessman and writer; he was the first President of the International Olympic Committee
International Olympic Committee
(IOC), from 1894 to 1896. After a childhood spent in Greece
Greece
and Constantinople
Constantinople
(now Istanbul), he found fortune in London, where he married. He then moved to Paris, on account of his wife. Abandoning business, he dedicated himself to literature and history, and published numerous novels, short stories and essays, which earned him a distinguished reputation. Because of his reputation and the fact that he lived in Paris, he was chosen to represent Greece
Greece
in a congress called by Pierre de Coubertin in June 1894, which decided to re-establish the Olympic Games
Olympic Games
and to organise them in Athens
Athens
in 1896, designating Vikelas to preside over the organisation committee. After the Games were over, he stepped down, remaining in Athens
Athens
until his death in 1908.

Contents

1 Childhood 2 London, from business to literature 3 Paris, the illness of his wife, and literature 4 Permanent return to Greece 5 Legacy 6 The Olympic Movement

6.1 First Olympic Congress

7 Historical and literary works

7.1 Novels and short stories 7.2 Books and historical articles 7.3 Political and polemic works 7.4 Translations

8 Notes 9 References 10 External links

Childhood[edit] Vikelas was born in Ermoupoli, on the island of Syros
Syros
in Greece. His father was a merchant, originally from Veria
Veria
(then part of the Ottoman Empire, today capital of the northern Greek province of Imathia
Imathia
in Central Macedonia) and his mother, Smaragda, was a member of the rich Melas family. He was educated at home by his mother,[2] possibly due to his fragile health.[citation needed] When he was six, the family moved to Constantinople, and ten years after that to Odessa. There he started working for his father's business. Already he showed signs of his literary potential. At the age of 17 he translated Esther, a tragedy by Jean Racine.[2] London, from business to literature[edit] While aged 17, in 1852, he left home to live in London
London
with his uncles Leon and Vasileios Melas, where he worked for their business, Melas Bros, first as a bookkeeper and then as a partner. He also began to maintain a weekly correspondence with his mother.[2] This correspondence, which was kept, is one of the most important in establishing his biography. He also kept a journal in which he recorded not only facts about his daily life but also advice from his uncle Leon and his thoughts on books he had read and plays he was able to attend.[3] After his day's work at his uncles' business, he took evening classes at University College London
London
(the only university in London
London
which did not require students to be Anglican). There, he obtained a degree in botany (the only subject which offered evening classes).[4] He learned German and Italian. He also took part in fencing, horse-riding and rowing, although circumstances did not allow him to keep these up.[5] He had also become very scholarly, and started to publish — an anthology of poems in 1862 and numerous articles in London periodicals, on the British press and the growing of cotton in Greece.

A portrait of Vikelas by Nikolaos Xydias Typaldos.

During the political events of 1863 in Greece, following the revolution which led to the eviction of Otto and the enthronement of George I, Vikelas led fundraising efforts in support of the provisional government. He also wrote letters to the main newspapers of the time to demand that Greece's rights be respected.[6] He became definitively known in the British intellectual world in 1866 when he contacted authors and academics to gain their support for the Cretan cause during the Cretan Revolt of 1866-1867, for which he raised more fundraising.[7][8] Also in 1866, he married Kalliope Geralopoulou, a young sister of Katerini, the wife of one of his uncles, also a member of a rich merchant family in London.[7] He also became a titular partner in his uncles' business.[8] He also met and became friends with Charilaos Trikoupis
Charilaos Trikoupis
- the son of the Greek ambassador to Britain Spyridon Trikoupis, himself destined to become Prime Minister of Greece. At the time they met, Charilaos Trikoupis was just starting his diplomatic and political career as an attaché, then chargé d'affaires, of the Greek legation. The two men kept a busy correspondence.[7] Demetrius Vikelas
Demetrius Vikelas
continued to gain favour in Greece
Greece
— in 1868 he published a 30-page statistical article on the Kingdom of Greece following a conference at the Royal Statistical Society; in 1870 he founded a school for Greek children living in England. All his work — polemic, political, journalistic, historical or literary — had a double objective: to elevate the morals and level of intellect of his country but also to change its reputation with respect to the rest of the world. In his historical essay of 1874, On the Byzantines, he wrote that he wanted to restore the reputation of the Byzantine Empire.[8] In 1876, in the wake of the economic crisis that had started in 1873, and in order not to lose the profits of their work, Vikelas and his uncles dissolved their business (now called "Melas Bros - D. Vikelas"). He thus found himself in command of a comfortable fortune, which allowed him to fully dedicate his time to literature.[9] Paris, the illness of his wife, and literature[edit] In 1874, following the death of her father, Vikelas' wife Kalliope began to suffer from mental problems and showed a number of suicidal tendencies.[7] The couple tried travelling to ease the illness. In Paris, following another scare, doctors declared Kalliope mad and she stayed for seven and a half months in Jules Bernard Luys' asylum in Ivry-sur-Seine. True to his character, Vikelas recorded the progress of his wife's mental health daily during the twenty years which followed.[7] In his journal, from 1872 Vikelas expressed the wish to move to Athens. In 1877, while Kalliope's condition was in remission, they took the opportunity to make the move. Vikelas started to build a home around the corner from the streets of Panepistimiou (on which the University was situated) and Voukourestiou.[10] However, his wife's health worsened again and he accompanied her to France
France
where she again stayed in Ivry-sur-Seine.[7] During his stays in Paris, Vikelas embarked on translating Shakespeare plays into Greek: King Lear, Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
and Othello
Othello
during his wife's first stay (1878), and Macbeth
Macbeth
and Hamlet
Hamlet
during the second (1881). The public readings of his translations received an enthusiastic welcome in the literary community in Athens. He then also wrote his main literary work: Loukis Laras.[7] The book first appeared in Athens
Athens
as a series starting in 1879. The same year, it was translated into French and German. The French translation (which had its first republication in 1880) was included by the Education Minister Jules Ferry
Jules Ferry
in the list of works which could be given as prizes to good students.[11]

Juliette Adam

Vikelas spent the following fifteen years in Paris, building up contacts with the surrounding intellectuals and literati of the French capital. Consequently, Juliette Adam
Juliette Adam
dedicated her anthology Poètes grecs contemporains ("Contemporary Greek poets"), published in 1881, to him, and he published in her Nouvelle Revue.[12] He wrote for it, as before, numerous articles (on Byzantine history, Eastern issues and Greek political life), novels (a compendium in French and Greek came out in 1887) and even travel guides.[13] In the linguistic controversy in Greece
Greece
between Katharevousa and Dimotiki, Vikelas chose the middle ground, rejecting the excesses of the Dimotikists just as much as the fierce defenders of the more intellectual language. He suggested using Katharevousa for parliamentary proceedings, for example, but popular language for poetry.[14] Between 1877 and 1892, he travelled, since at the worst of her crises, his wife could not bear his presence. He returned to Greece, visited Scotland, Switzerland, Spain and Constantinople.[13] In 1892, he bought a new plot in Athens
Athens
(between the streets of Kriezotou and Valaoriti) where he built a new residence which was also his final home.[13] In 1893, he helped finance the construction of the Greek Orthodox church in Paris (fr).[15] In May 1894, he received a request from the Pan-Hellenic Gymnastic Club, asking him to assist at a congress on amateurism convened the following month by Pierre de Coubertin. After hesitation, he agreed to represent the association.[13] Following the congress it was decided to recreate the Olympic Games
Olympic Games
and to organise them in Athens. Originally, it had been De Coubertin's idea to hold the first celebration of the modern Olympics in Paris
Paris
in 1900, but Vikelas convinced him and the newly created International Olympic Committee that they should be held in Athens, in order to symbolically link them to the original Games.[citation needed] As the constitution of the IOC at that time required the IOC president to be from the country which would host the next Games, Vikelas became the IOC's first president. Permanent return to Greece[edit] With his responsibility for the 1896 Summer Olympics, Vikelas returned to Greece
Greece
for just ten days in autumn 1894. On October the 14th, he received a telegram from doctor Luys informing him that the condition of his wife had worsened. She had œdemas in her thighs, calves and stomach. She could no longer feed herself. He urgently returned to Paris.[16] It seems that she then died. In November 1894, a number of young nationalist officers, advocates of the Megali Idea, created a secret society, Ethniki Etairia, whose aim was to revive the morale of the country and prepare the liberation of Greek peoples still under the Ottoman Empire.[17] In September 1895, they recruited civilians, all linked to the organisation of the Olympic Games, including Vikelas himself, although he claimed only to have given in to friendly pressure, playing a solely financial role and then quickly resigning from it.[18] At this point he was still attracted by the possibility of rebuilding his country. After the Games, which proved a success, Vikelas withdrew from the IOC, replaced as a member by the Count Alexander Mercati and as president by Coubertin. The defeat in the Greco-Turkish War which came soon after dealt a serious blow to his morale. He decided to leave Paris
Paris
to move permanently to Athens. There he dedicated himself to popular education. In 1899 he founded the "Society for the Spread of Useful Books" in Athens, to help the country to recover from its defeat.[19] In 1905, he represented the University of Athens
Athens
at the third Olympic Congress and seventh IOC Meeting in Brussels.[20] He also remained an active member of the Hellenic Olympic Committee.[21] He died in Athens on 20 July 1908 "from an afflicting illness".[22] He had been made a knight of the Legion of Honour on 31 December 1891, and honorary doctor of the University of St Andrews
University of St Andrews
in November 1893 (the first Greek to receive this honour).[15] He was a member (from 1874, and Vice-President from 1894[15]) of the French "Association for the Promotion of Greek Studies", and of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies in London. Legacy[edit] He left his immense library collection to the city of Heraklion
Heraklion
in Crete, founding the Vikelaia Municipal Library.[23] Though in fact he did not live much of his life in Syros, the island counts him among its most well-known sons. Today, the Sports Center (Stadium) in Ermoupoli
Ermoupoli
bears Demetrios Vikelas' name. The stadium seats 2000 people, and has an Olympic-size swimming pool, four tennis courts, two gym halls, basket and volleyball courts, track and field, floor football court and soccer field. Also the Syros
Syros
Island National Airport is named for him. The Olympic Movement[edit] First Olympic Congress[edit]

Pierre de Coubertin

Pierre de Coubertin
Pierre de Coubertin
had already attempted to restart the Olympic Games at the congress for the fifth anniversary of the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques in 1892. While he may have raised the enthusiasm of the public, he didn't manage to establish a proper commitment.[24]

The International Olympic Committee
International Olympic Committee
at the first Olympic Games
Olympic Games
in Athens. Vikelas is seated in the center

He decided to reiterate his efforts at the congress in 1894 which followed, which would openly address the issue of amateur sports, but also with the sub-text of the recreation of the Olympic Games. Six of the seven points which would be debated pertained to amateurism (definition, disqualification, betting, etc.) and the seventh on the possibility of restoring the Games. Coubertin also sought to give an international dimension to his congress. He gained support from several personalities: the King of the Belgians, the Prince of Wales, the Diadochus Constantine (hereditary prince of Greece) and William Penny Brookes, the founder of the "Olympian Games" in Shropshire, England, and Ioannis Phokianos.[25] Phokianos was a professor of mathematics and physics and a college principal. Phokianos was also one of the propagators of sport in Greece
Greece
and the organiser of an Olympic Games
Olympic Games
sponsored by Evangelis Zappas
Evangelis Zappas
in 1875. In 1888, Phokianos organised an elite and private Games as the founder of the Pan-Hellenic Gymnastic Club.[26] Phokianos could not travel to Paris for financial reasons and because he was finalising the construction of his new college. He turned to one of the more eminent representatives of the Greek community in Paris, Demetrios Vikelas, to whom he wrote to ask him to take part in the congress.[27] Historical and literary works[edit] Novels and short stories[edit]

Poems., London, 1862. Loukis Laras was his main work, a historical, patriotic and moral novel. The style is naturalistic, as opposed to his heavy romantic works which were written as they were in Greece. It is written in simple language to make it accessible to a wider audience. The action unfolds as the Greek War of Independence
Greek War of Independence
enters Smyrna, Chios, Syros and the Cyclades. An old rich Greek merchant in London
London
reflects on the adventures of his youth. The novel was published as a series from 1879 in the literary Athenian magazine Estia. The book was translated into eleven languages.[7] Nouvelle grecques, translated by the Marquis de Queux de Saint-Hilaire, 1887.

"Philippe Marthas (Nouvelle grecque)" appeared in La Nouvelle Revue., September–October 1886. read at Gallica (French)

Tales of the Aegean.

Books and historical articles[edit]

Articles on Palaiologos, the last dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, in the Athenian journal Pandora, 1859-1860. On the Byzantines., London, 1874. "Les Grecs aux conciles de Bâle et de Florence.", La Nouvelle Revue., May–June 1882. read at Gallica (French) "La Grèce avant la révolution de 1821", La Nouvelle Revue., January–February 1884. read at Gallica (French) De Nicopolis à Olympie. Lettres à un ami., 1885. (following his correspondence with the Marquis de Queux de Saint-Hilaire) "The Byzantine Empire", Scottish Review, no. 8:16, October 1886. "Byzantism and Hellenism", Scottish Review, no. 9:17, janvier 1887. "The Subjects of the Byzantine Empire", Scottish Review, no. 9:18, April 1887. " Greece
Greece
before 1821", Scottish Review, no. 13:26, April 1889. "The Formation of the Modern Greek State", Scottish Review, no. 14:27, July 1889. "L'Empereur Nicéphore Phocas", La Nouvelle Revue., July–August 1890. read at Gallica (French) Seven Essays on Christian Greece., 1890. "Le Philhellénisme en France.", Revue d'Histoire diplomatique., III, 1891. "La Littérature byzantine", Revue des deux mondes, March–April, 1892. read at Gallica (French) Grèce Byzantine et moderne., Firmin Didot, Paris, 1893.

Political and polemic works[edit]

"Journalism in England", Eunomia (Athènes), 1864. "Statistics of the Kingdom of Greece", Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, no. 31, September 1868. Le Rôle et les aspirations de la Grèce dans la question d'Orient., Cercle Saint-Simon, Paris, 1885. read at Gallica (French) "Vingt-cinq années de règne constitutionnel en Grèce", La Nouvelle Revue., March–April 1889. read at Gallica (French) "The Territory of the Hellenic Kingdom", no. 14:28, October 1889.

Translations[edit] He translated into Greek the stories of Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
(for his nephews and nieces), and various Shakespeare plays. Notes[edit]

^ Some sources use the date 1832 (Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens., 84) ^ a b c Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 84 ^ Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 84-85 ^ Dolianitis, Demetrius Vikelas, 106-107 ^ Dolianitis, Demetrius Vikelas, 107 ^ Dolianitis, Demetrius Vikelas, 107–108 ^ a b c d e f g h Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 85 ^ a b c Dolianitis, Demetrius Vikelas, 108 ^ Dolianitis, Demetrius Vikelas, 109 ^ Llewellyn Smith, The exemplary life of Dimitrios Vikelas, 16 ^ Dolianitis, Demetrius Vikelas, 109-110 ^ Basch, Le Mirage Grec, 229 ^ a b c d Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 86 ^ Basch, Le Mirage Grec, 231 ^ a b c Dolianitis, Demetrius Vikelas, 111 ^ Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 95 ^ Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 49-50 ^ Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 149-150 ^ Miller, Εύλλογος πρὸς διάδοσιν ὠφελίμων βιβλίων, 117 ^ Revue Olympique, Demetrius Bikelas, 132 ^ Olympic Review, Greece
Greece
and Olympism, 253 ^ Revue Olympique, Demetrius Bikelas, 131 ^ "Vikelaia Municipal Library". Municipality of Heraklion. Archived from the original on 2013-02-17. Retrieved 2008-01-10.  ^ Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 87 ^ Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 79–81 ^ Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 61 ^ Llewellyn Smith, Olympics in Athens, 88

References[edit]

Llewellyn Smith, Michael (2004). Olympics in Athens
Athens
1896: The Invention of the Modern Olympic Games. Profile Books Limited. ISBN 1-86197-342-X.  Llewellyn Smith, Michael (2006). "The exemplary life of Dimitrios Vikelas (1835-1908)". The Historical Review / La Revue Historique. III. Institute of Neohellenic Research.  Dolianitis, George (1995). The IOC's Centenary 1894-1994. The Contribution of Demetrius Vikelas
Demetrius Vikelas
to the Revival of the Olympic Games (PDF). Ancient Olympia: International Olympic Committee. pp. 93–120. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-20. Retrieved 2009-07-01.  Basch, Sophie (fr) (1995). Le Mirage Grec. Grèce moderne devant l'opinion française. (1846-1946). Paris: Hatier. pp. 229–231. ISBN 2-218-06269-0. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) Miller, William (1941-07-04). "Notices of books: "Εύλλογος πρὸς διάδοσιν ὠφελίμων βιβλίων. Χρονικὰ τῆς τεσσαρακονταετίας 1899-1939"". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. London: The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. 60: 117. JSTOR 626292.  "Demetrius Bikelas" (pdf). Revue Olympique (in French). Paris: International Olympic Committee
International Olympic Committee
(33): 131–132. September 1908. Retrieved 2008-02-02.  " Greece
Greece
and Olympism" (pdf). Olympic Review. Lausanne: International Olympic Committee (127): 253. May 1978. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 

External links[edit]

Biography of Demetrius Vikelas
Demetrius Vikelas
on the IOC website Works by Demetrios Vikelas at Project Gutenberg Works by or about Demetrius Vikelas
Demetrius Vikelas
at Internet Archive

Civic offices

New title President of the International Olympic Committee 1894–1896 Succeeded by Pierre de Coubertin

v t e

Presidents of the International Olympic Committee

Demetrius Vikelas
Demetrius Vikelas
(1894–1896) Pierre de Coubertin
Pierre de Coubertin
(1896–1925) Godefroy de Blonay
Godefroy de Blonay
(1916–1919, acting president) Henri de Baillet-Latour
Henri de Baillet-Latour
(1925–1942) Sigfrid Edström
Sigfrid Edström
(acting 1942–1946, elected 1946–1952) Avery Brundage
Avery Brundage
(1952–1972) Michael Morris (1972–1980) Juan Antonio Samaranch
Juan Antonio Samaranch
(1980–2001) Jacques Rogge
Jacques Rogge
(2001–2013) Thomas Bach
Thomas Bach
(2013–present)

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 59262896 LCCN: n84019721 ISNI: 0000 0001 1027 6885 GND: 119154307 SELIBR: 257537 SUDOC: 085973815 BNF: cb137425861 (data) NLA: 36014389 NKC: jn20010602921 CiNii: DA15497343

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