The idea of an International Olympic Academy was first conceived in the 1930s by Ioannis Ketseas, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member in Greece, and Carl Diem. The idea never died but it took many years of informal discussions before the foundation of an Academy, to be located at Olympia, Greece, was unanimously approved by the IOC during a session in Rome in 1949. Of the 80 invitations sent to National Olympic Committees for the first preliminary session, only four replies were received and all of these were in the negative. Ketseas, who was now working closely with Diem, a German professor with a passionate interest in Olympic matters, persisted with his goal and with the assistance of Olympic and archaeological bodies from Germany and Greece, the Academy eventually came into being and has subsequently prospered. The first session was held from 16-23 June 1961.
A plot of some 150 acres of land bordering the Ancient Olympic stadium was acquired by the IOA, buildings were erected, and the complex, which now provides accommodations, a library, and several sports facilities, is a popular center for students of the Olympic Movement. The IOA holds an annual session each summer during which students of the Olympic Movement gather for several days to hear speeches and discussions on Olympic subjects. In addition, many other international symposia are held at the IOA each year. The idea of Olympic Academies has spread and there are more than 70 National Olympic Academies, helping to spread the message of Olympism and the Olympic Movement.