You would never guess from its lawns, palm-trees and pathways fringed with bright pink blooms, but the International Olympic Academy (IOA) has been living through difficult days.

Inaugurated in 1961 and located just a golf buggy ride from ancient Olympia, the IOA has made concrete modern Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin's vision for an academic centre for the study of the Movement.

You would think that such a mission would make it sacrosanct.

Yet, as director Dionyssis Gangas explained to me during a tour of the premises, the European financial crisis that has hit Greece so hard might have brought the institution to its knees.

Until three years ago, according to Gangas, the finances of the academy worked as follows:

On the one hand, there was an operating budget of €1 million (£859,000/$1.3 million), drawn 50 per cent from the Greek state, 20 per cent from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and 30 per cent from "various activities"; on the other there was the cost of maintaining the premises, which he says was the responsibility of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC).

These maintenance costs came to a further €1.2 million (£1 million/$1.6 million), but only, as Gangas gives me to understand, because of high personnel costs stemming from the HOC's status as a public interest entity.

At this point, with the Greek public sector severely strapped for cash, a deal was struck whereby the IOA itself took over responsibility for the bulk of maintenance, which it has been able to accomplish much more efficiently, while the HOC's contribution was cut to €300,000 (£258,000/$396,000).

Gangas puts today's budget at around €1.5 million (£1.3 million/$1.9 million), with the rest of it derived as follows: €100,000 (£86,000/$132,000) from the Greek state, €100-€150,000 (£86,000-£129,000/$132,000-198,000) from academic activities, €400,000 (£343,000/$527,000) from sponsorship, including contributions from the cultural centre of Azerbaijan and the Greek lottery, and €450,000 (£386,000/$593,000) from the IOC, which, he says, has agreed, in addition, to make good any deficit.

"If it weren't for [President] Jacques Rogge and his colleagues at the IOC, the academy would have been forced to close," Gangas reveals.

As part of the new way of doing things, the academy has been opened for the use of outside educational partners much more frequently than it used to be.

Yale, Harvard, Georgetown and St Andrews have all taken advantage of the opportunity to organise symposia or summer schools.

The understanding is that courses should have some Olympic content.

Since 2009, the academy has hosted a two-year master's degree programme on Olympic studies for 30 students a year.

Would-be students must apply through their National Olympic Committee by March of any given year, with the course starting in September.

The fee, which Gangas says includes accommodation and food, is set at €3,000 (£2,500/$3,900) for the two years.

For all his gratitude to the IOC, Gangas says that the IOA's future is "still a little uncertain because of the general economic crisis in Greece.

"This means we have no hope of the level of state support we had in the past for the foreseeable future.

"And it means we are dependent on attracting new corporate and individual sponsors to ensure our survival."

Looking out over the idyllic grounds towards the ancient stadium where the Olympics began in 776BC, it comes as a shock to realise that this unique place of learning might conceivably have had to close its doors.

Baron de Coubertin's heart, laid to rest, in accordance with his wishes, on one of Olympia's tranquil pathways, would surely have been broken.

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