Sigfrid Edström

Biographical information

TypeIOC member
Full nameJohannes Sigfrid•Edström
Used nameSigfrid•Edström
Born21 November 1870 in Morlanda, Orust (SWE)
Died17 March 1964 in Stockholm (SWE)
NOC Sweden


Johannes Sigfrid Edström was born on 21 November 1870, in Morlanda, about 40 miles (65 km.) north of Göteborg, Sweden. He had a relatively short but important reign as the 4th President of the IOC. From 1891-1893, Edström received his education in Göteborg and also in the United States and Zürich, Switzerland as a civil engineer. In 1899 he married an American woman, Ruth Miriam Randall.

Edström became a wealthy industrialist, whose business career reached its first peak in 1903 when he was named Managing Director of Allmóna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolagel (ASEA), the Swedish General Electric Company. His business successes were many. Edström founded the International Chamber of Commerce in 1918 (President, 1939-45), the Federation of Swedish Industries in 1910 (Chairman, 1928-29), and was Chairman of the Swedish Employers’ Confederation from 1931-1942. He served ASEA as Managing Director from 1903-33, and as Chairman of the Board from 1934-49.

Although Edström never competed in the 1896 Olympic Games, as has been written occasionally, sports were Edström’s hobby throughout his life, and when the 1912 Olympic Games were awarded to Stockholm, he turned his energies towards those Olympics. For the 1912 Olympic Games, Edström was director and vice-president of the Organizing Committee and a member of the stadium building committee. During the Stockholm Games, Edström also organized the group that established the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) as the governing body of track & field athletics. For his efforts, he became the first president of the IAAF, holding that office from 1913 to 1946.

Because of his obvious abilities in the field of sports administration, Edström was elected an IOC member in 1921 and would eventually serve on the IOC for 31 years. He was also appointed to the newly formed IOC Executive Board in that same year. Edström later chaired the Olympic Congresses in 1921 and 1925 and was appointed Vice-President of the IOC in 1937.

In 1942, IOC President Henri de Baillet-Latour died of a stroke in Brussels, Belgium. There was no provision in the Olympic Charter for presidential succession, so as Vice-President, Sigfrid Edström took over as de facto IOC President. Edström’s nationality, in neutral Sweden during World War II, was also thought to support his position as IOC President. One of his first actions was to recommend to the other IOC members that Avery Brundage be named Vice-President. During World War II, Edström and Brundage kept the workings of the IOC alive by frequent letters to the IOC Members, keeping them apprised of future plans when the War ended.

In 1946, in the first post-war IOC Session in Lausanne, Sigfrid Edström was elected IOC President by acclamation. He would serve officially in that post for only six years, but they were troubled times. During the period from 1946-1952, Edström was confronted by the questions of whether or not to allow Communist nations into the Olympics, what to do with East and West Germany, which were not invited to the 1948 Olympics, whether or not to allow the Axis nations of World War II back into the Olympic fold, what to do with pre-War German IOC members, and the first IOC problems with the two China question.

Edström and the IOC were able to broker the first four problems successfully. The Soviet Union was allowed into the Olympic Games for the first time in 1952, after long negotiations. They were also able to obtain an agreement from the two Germanies to compete as one, combined team in 1952 – although no East Germans actually competed in that year. The World War II Axis nations of Germany and Japan were not allowed to compete at the 1948 Olympic Games – they were simply not invited. But all IOC member nations were declared eligible to compete at the Olympic Games beginning in 1952. Finally, in regards to the German IOC Members who had been on the committee since before the War, Edström was adamant that those members were friends of the IOC and supporters of the Olympic Movement. They remained on the IOC. Little success was achieved with the question of the two Chinas and it would not be resolved for 30 years.

In his final official act as IOC President, opening the 1952 Olympic Games at Helsinki, Edström stated, “We hope the Olympic Games will allow a respite from political tensions and that international understanding will increase among the youth of the world as a direct result of their intermingling and participation during the Games.” He then handed the reigns over to his old friend, Avery Brundage, who succeeded him as IOC President.

In 1947, Edström had been honored when he was awarded the Olympic Cup for his contributions to the Olympic Movement. On his retirement as IOC President, Edström was given the title of Honorary President of the IOC. He was by then retired from both the worlds of business and sport. He lived a long and quiet retirement in his native Sweden, dying at age 93 on 18 March 1964 in Stockholm.

Organization roles

Role Organization Tenure NOC As
Vice President Swedish Olympic Committee for the Olympic Games of Stockholm, 1912 SWE Sigfrid Edström
President World Athletics 1912—1946 SWE Sigfrid Edström
Member International Olympic Committee 1921—1952 SWE Sigfrid Edström
Executive Board Member International Olympic Committee 1921—1937 SWE Sigfrid Edström
Vice-President International Olympic Committee 1937—1939 SWE Sigfrid Edström
Executive Board Member International Olympic Committee 1939—1942 SWE Sigfrid Edström
De Facto President International Olympic Committee 1942—1946 SWE Sigfrid Edström
President International Olympic Committee 1946—1952 SWE Sigfrid Edström
Honorary President for Life International Olympic Committee 1952—1964 SWE Sigfrid Edström

Special Notes