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OLYMPIC REVIEW31 OLYMPIC CONGRESS obligatory and optional events for future Games was also outlined for the first time. Returning to Lausanne in 1921 it was decided that France, as the host of the 1924 Olympic Games, would be the first to stage an " International Winter Sports Week". This took place at Chamonix in 1924 and later became officially known as the Olympic Winter Games. In Prague in 1925 the delegates recommended that the Olympic Games be limited to two weeks, a tradition which began at the subsequent Games in Amsterdam in 1928. Prior to that the Olympics had been sprawling affairs spread over several weeks, if not months. Debate at the Olympic Congress of Berlin in 1930, the last before a break of more than 40 years, was at times heated but thereafter the IFs assumed more responsibility for technical procedures at Olympic Games, leaving the IOC more time to address fundamental issues such as amateurism or sport as a political instrument. Despite the long gap, in 1973 the Congress picked up where it had left off and discussions at Varna were the springboard for the new rule which authorised financial assistance for elite level training. Within 20 years the Games were almost fully open to professionals, paving the way for basketball's " Dream Team", tennis champions like Steffi Graf and Roger Federer and footballers such as Brazil's Ronaldinho to grace the Olympic stage. At the 1981 Congress in Baden- Baden athletes played a leading role for the first time with Kip Keino, Sebastian Coe and Soviet ice hockey goalkeeper Vladislav Tretyak all speaking. Their accounts rang with an authenticity nobody dared contradict and paved the way for the creation of the IOC Athletes' Commission. The Centennial Olympic Congress in 1994 was in Paris, just as the first Congress had been. It proved trend- setting in terms of protection of the environment, which was declared an essential component of Olympism. Since 1994 the bidding process for all Olympic Games have required candidate cities to present an environmental programme. In his letter of invitation to the inaugural Olympic Congress of 1894, Coubertin wrote: " It is necessary to preserve the noble and chivalrous character which distinguished athletics in the past, in order that it may continue effectively to play the same admirable part in the education of the modern world as the Greek masters assigned to it... Reform is imperative, and before it is undertaken it must be discussed." Today the Olympic Movement is as strong as it has ever been in many ways, but momentous decisions will have to be made in the near future if it is to retain that strength and its relevance to the modern world. Many of those decisions will be based on discussions that will take place at the 13th Olympic Congress in Copenhagen. ¦

32OLYMPIC REVIEW OLYMPIC CONGRESS P reparations for the 13th Olympic Congress entitled, " The Olympic Movement in Society" began in 2007, when IOC President Jacques Rogge made an official " Call for Contributions" to all members of the Olympic Family at the IOC session in Guatemala. At the same time, Rogge also announced a groundbreaking new element of the 13th Olympic Congress, with the launch of the Virtual Olympic Congress. The Virtual Olympic Congress is an important component of the preparatory process leading to the 13th Olympic Congress in Copenhagen in October. Through this internet platform, all members of the Olympic Family were encouraged to provide some insights on the discussion topics ahead of the Congress. But in a far reaching initiative by the IOC, the Virtual Olympic Congress was also opened to the general public, offering people from all walks of life the opportunity to offer their views on any two of the five themes under consideration. This type of public participation is a first in the 115- year history of Olympic Congresses. Designed to " Take the Pulse" of the general public, the Virtual Olympic Congress enabled the IOC to gather a wider range of views on the Olympic Movement than ever before. The site was first opened in October 2007 for contributions from members of the Olympic Family and was made public in January 2008. Participants from outside the Olympic Movement could submit a written contribution of 1,000 words or less on two of the five Congress themes. " This is an exciting time for the Olympic Movement," declared IOC President Jacques Rogge. " Modern communication methods have made it possible for us to tap into the views and opinions of those outside the immediate Olympic family." As he went on to say, " We are pleased with the number of high- calibre contributions and appreciate the efforts of everyone who took the time to contribute". This sentiment was echoed by the IOC Director General Urs Lacotte. " We are very happy with the input from the public," said Mr Lacotte. " The contributions we received were thoughtful and insightful and have given us some food for thought." In total, over 453 contributions were received from the Olympic Family FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE HISTORY OF OLYMPIC CONGRESSES THE GENERAL PUBLIC WERE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE THEIR SAY ON THE TOPICS THAT WILL BE DISCUSSED AS THE IOC INITIATED THE VIRTUAL OLYMPIC CONGRESS, A WEBSITE DESIGNED TO ACCEPT WRITTEN CONTRIBUTIONS FROM PARTICIPANTS ALL OVER THE WORLD