Viktor Gustaf Balck

Biographical information

Full nameViktor Gustaf•Balck
Used nameViktor Gustaf•Balck
Born25 April 1844 in Karlskrona, Blekinge (SWE)
Died31 May 1928 in Stockholm, Stockholm (SWE)
NOC Sweden


Viktor Gustaf Balck is often called “The Father of Swedish Sports.” In 1861 he entered Karlberg, the Swedish Military Academy in Stockholm, where the courses in the first year were the same for future army and navy officers. On the first day at Karlberg he entered the gymnastic hall, although he had not previously practised sports or gymnastics, and this day was decisive for his future life and career, “I was overwhelmed by enthusiasm for gymnastics and fencing and I promised that from that day forward I would dedicate my life to physical exercises.”

In 1866 Balck received his commission as a second lieutenant and joined the Nerike Regiment. He also entered Gymnastika Centralinstitutet, from which he earned his degree in 1868. From 1868-1885, he served as a teacher at GCI and at the Military Equestrian School at Strömsholm. He taught at the military section of GCI (1885-1887), while from 1887-1909 he was the head teacher in military gymnastics at GCI, and served as Principal of GCI from 1907-1909.

In 1875 Balck helped found numerous Swedish sporting organizations, including the Stockholms Gymnastikförening, the Stockholms Roddförening, and in 1883 he was instrumental in starting the Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb (Stockholm Public Skating Club). He also helped form the organization that later became the Svenska Gymnastik- och Idrottsförbundet (Swedish Gymnastics and Sports Association) when track & field athletics began to form a major portion of its activities. The Svenska Idrottsförbundet (Swedish Sports Association) was founded in 1895 in Göteborg. At the time, Sweden had two rival groups organizing Swedish Championships. In 1901 J. Sigfrid Edström was elected President of Svenska Idrottsförbundet, and he realized that two rival sports organizations could not benefit Swedish sports. He took the initiative to merge the two bodies and in 1903 they united as the Svenska Gymnastik- och Idrottsföreningarnas Riksförbund, with Balck as President of the Board.

Balck also wrote extensively on sports. In 1874 he co-founded Tidskrift för Gymnastik, while in 1881 he founded Tidning för Idrott, the first general sports paper in Sweden. He managed the paper until 1897, when Clarence von Rosen took over as publisher, and renamed it Ny Tidning för Idrott, but Balck remained as the editor. In 1884-1886 he published a three-volume book, Illustrerad Idrottsbok (Illustrated Book of Sports), a manual of different sports and games.

At the Congress on Physical Education at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889 Sweden was represented by a gymnastics troupe with Balck as team manager. In Paris he met Pierre de Coubertin for the first time. They hit it off immediately, having a similar view of sports. When Pierre de Coubertin began organizing the 1894 Sorbonne Congress for the re-establishment of the Olympic Games he invited Balck to be one of eight Vice-Presidents. Balck did not take part in the Sorbonne Congress but it was quite natural that he became one of the original 13 IOC Members.

In 1897, Balck was instrumental in forming the Sveriges Allmänna Idrottsförbund [Swedish Public Sports Association]. Two years later it became the Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande – SCIF [Swedish Central Association for Promotion of Sport], the forerunner of the Swedish Olympic Committee. In 1899 Viktor Balck assumed the position as President of the Executive Committee of SCIF and became its driving force. When the 1912 Olympic Games were awarded to Sweden, Viktor Balck was the natural choice to be selected as President of the Organizing Committee.

Organization roles

Role Organization Tenure NOC As
President Swedish Olympic Committee for the Olympic Games of Stockholm, 1912 SWE Viktor Gustaf Balck
Member International Olympic Committee 1894—1921 SWE Viktor Gustaf Balck
President International Skating Union 1895—1925 SWE Viktor Gustaf Balck

Special Notes