The World Olympians Association was established on 21 November 1995 during a meeting at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland with 25 founding members present. The group is essentially an alumni association of former Olympic athletes. Several nations have also formed National Olympian Associations (NOAs). The WOA has several objectives as listed on their website. These include:
- furthering the growth of the membership
- interacting with the National Olympian Associations
- actively supporting the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
- initiating discussions with the IOC in regards to special interests of former Olympians
- hosting an Olympians Centre at the site of Olympic Games
- assisting NOAs with the development of an Olympian affinity card providing member benefits
- providing for a global Olympic Job Opportunity Program
- providing fraternal functions among members of the Olympic Family
- forming an alliance with the ethical enforcement bodies of the IOC
- working with youth and community programs as role models of excellence.
At the 2015 IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the IOC proposed to form a closer association between the IOC and the World Olympians Association.