The International Olympic Committee is the international governing organization of the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games. It is a non-governmental, non-profit organization of unlimited duration, in the form of an association with the status of a legal person, recognized by decree of the Swiss Federal Council of 17 September 1981. The International Olympic Committee was founded by Pierre de Coubertin in 1894, at the Olympic Congress that re-established the Olympic Games. The IOC is currently based in Lausanne, Switzerland, and has been since Coubertin moved there during World War I. The mission of the IOC is to lead the Olympic Movement in accordance with the Olympic Charter.
The IOC consists of members who are chosen and co-opted to membership. IOC member nations may have one member on the IOC, although not all do. However, until recently any nation that had hosted the Olympic Games or Olympic Winter Games was entitled to a second member on the IOC. IOC members are not considered to be members from their respective nations. Rather, they are considered to be IOC ambassadors to, or in, their respective nations. The IOC 2000 Commission helped change the structure of the IOC in late 1999. There are now four classes of IOC Members: independent members, co-opted as they have always been; athlete members, who have competed in recent Olympic Games; International Federation (IF) president members; and National Olympic Committee president members. The eventual size of the IOC was also restricted to 115 members, as follows: 70 independent members, 15 athlete members, 15 IF president members, and 15 NOC president members. Previously, IOC members were elected for life, but the new changes to the Olympic Charter call for re-election every eight years, with athlete members restricted to one term.
The IOC is led by a President, four Vice-Presidents, and an Executive Board. The president is elected initially for a term of eight years, but now may only be re-elected for one further term of four years. Prior to 1999, Presidents could be re-elected with no term limits, but this was changed based on the recommendations of the IOC 2000 Commission. Vice-Presidents and Executive Board members are elected for a term of four years. They may not be re-elected to the same position for consecutive terms, although they may return to that position on the Executive Board after a period of four more years.
IOC Sessions consist of meetings of the entire membership and are required to be held at least once a year. The IOC Session is considered to be the supreme organ of the IOC but may delegate its powers to the Executive Board. The Executive Board meets more frequently and works by making recommendations to the IOC sessions, which is then responsible for enacting or denying its recommendations. Day-to-day decisions are delegated to the IOC President.
The Olympic Charter is the document that specifies the principles, rules, and bye-laws of the IOC. Only IOC Sessions have the power to modify and interpret the Olympic Charter.