The race to lead the most powerful club in world sport has attracted a record number of candidates.

The six who would be President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are Thomas Bach - Germany, Sergey Bubka - Ukraine, Richard Carrión - Puerto Rico, Denis Oswald - Switzerland, Ser Miang Ng - Singapore, and CK Wu - Chinese Taipei.

Three time Olympic sailor Jacques Rogge stands down after 12 years at the helm. By profession a surgeon, his leadership carried the hallmarks of precision. A leading light in the European Olympic Committees, he joined the IOC in 1991. Ten years later in Moscow, he beat Korea's Un Yong Kim, Canadian Dick Pound, Hungary's Pál Schmitt and American Anita de Frantz to become the second IOC President from Belgium.

The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) was the big idea of his Presidency. Rogge saw them become a reality in 2010.

"If I had the privilege of something like this I would have been very happy," he said. "What we never had was this combination of sport and education."

Rogge made a point of always spending a night in the athletes' village and made clear his concern about the support structure around competitors and set up a commission to look at "entourage".

It was no coincidence that the YOG was the first to include an oath for coaches.

There have been only eight full time Presidents of the IOC in the 119 years since its foundation in Paris.

The meeting was set up by Baron Pierre de Coubertin. One of those attending was Demetrius Vikelas, a Greek living in Paris. He represented the Panhellenic Society of Athens and was vice-president of the Society for Greek studies.

"I sued for the rights of Greece, it being a question of the re-establishment of a Greek institution," he said.

"The holding of the Olympic Games in Athens is not simply confirmation of the Panhellenic Gymnastic Society's noble aim of elevating the mind by exercising the body. It is the display of a Hellenophile sentiment...and there is also a new bond between Greece and Europe."

Vikelas was voted IOC President as Athens was chosen as host city for the Games of the first Olympiad of the Modern Era in 1896.

The next Games were awarded to Paris, so Coubertin now took over the IOC leadership. He remained in office until 1925, although Godefroy de Blonay took temporary charge during the First World War. Coubertin pressed for new sports, promoted artistic competition and even designed the five rings symbol.

The Belgian Count Henri de Baillet-Latour succeeded Coubertin in 1925, and was immediately confronted with disputes over what the term "amateur" actually meant. Some countries threatened to withdraw from the movement.

After Berlin and Garmisch-Partenkirchen were selected as 1936 hosts, there were further challenges for the IOC. The decision was taken before the Nazis came to power, but the swastika soon loomed large.

Baillet-Latour told Hitler to remove anti Jewish banners on the approaches to Garmisch-Partenkirchen before the Winter Games. These were taken down. In Berlin, anti-Semitic newspapers disappeared from news kiosks, but it was all so much window dressing. Most Jewish athletes were excluded from German teams.

When Hitler occupied the Sudetenland, IOC founding member Jiří Guth-Jarkovský was allowed to remain as member in Bohemia and Moravia. The IOC President referred simply to "the recent changes in Central Europe...and thanked the German members for the successful conclusions of these negotiations".

Baillet-Latour passed away in his sleep in 1942, the only President to die in office. His fellow Belgian, Olympic fencer and water polo player Victor Boin wrote of "his life as a veritable hymn to the youth of the world".

Belgium was under wartime occupation and Hitler sent a letter of condolence to Baillet-Latour's widow and a wreath to the funeral.

From his home in neutral Sweden, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sigfrid Edström kept in touch with IOC members and was later confirmed as President.

"The real reason for the existence of the Olympic Movement is to improve the human race, not only physically but by giving it a greater nobility of mind," he said.

After the war, he was anxious to revive the Olympic cycle as soon as possible. Only three years later, he strode out at Wembley to present his fellow IOC members to King George VI before the 1948 Olympics.

In 1952 American millionaire Avery Brundage became IOC President at the height of the cold war. An Olympic athlete himself in 1912, he had spoken out against any boycott of the 1936 Olympics and many, even within the IOC, saw him as somewhat dictatorial. He oversaw the re-entry of a symbolically united German team, but did not engage with Communist China so millions remained excluded from the Olympics.

He was also a staunch defender of amateur regulations.

"No-one can buy an Olympic medal. No one profits from the Olympic Games," he told the IOC in 1960.

He targeted the Winter Games, regarded the skiers as professionals in all but name and expelled Austrian Karl Schranz in 1972. Effigies of Brundage were burnt in Vienna.

Both Lord Burghley and Comte Jean de Beaumont challenged him in Presidential elections, unsuccessfully as it turned out.

In 1972, he was heavily criticised for his handling of the Olympic village hostage crisis. In his speech at the memorial service, he unwisely compared the killing of Israeli athletes with political difficulties over Rhodesia. At the Closing Ceremony, the Munich scoreboard even got his name wrong - it read "Goodbye Avery Brandage".

His successor was the Irish peer, Lord Killanin. Within months, designated 1976 Winter hosts Denver had withdrawn, leaving the IOC to find a replacement. Innsbruck came to the rescue twelve years after they had first staged the Games.

Costs were rising as Montreal made ready for the summer Games. In fact, the Olympic Stadium was unfinished when they opened.

There were almost overwhelming political problems. New Zealand's Rugby team toured South Africa in 1976 and the African nations boycotted Montreal in protest. The Canadian Government, mindful of trade with the Peoples Republic of China, refused visas to Taiwanese competitors. At one stage the Americans threatened withdrawal in support of Taiwan. Lord Killanin did later broker an agreement between the two Chinas, but it wasn't until the eighties that they competed side by side.

As Moscow 1980 approached, American President Jimmy Carter called for a boycott after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The United States, Canada, Germany and Japan stayed away. The British and Australians led resistance to Government pressure and did compete; both however, flew the Olympic flag.

"I would like to welcome all the athletes and officials especially those who have shown their complete independence to travel to compete despite many pressures placed on them," said Lord Killanin at the Opening Ceremony, but many events were devalued by the boycott.

In eight years, Lord Killanin had enough strife to last a lifetime and it had affected his health. His final Olympic act before stepping down at the age of 66 was to close the Games.

"I implore the sportsmen of the world to unite in peace before a holocaust descends. Alas sport is intertwined with politics but sport must not be used for political purposes especially when other political, diplomatic and economic means have not been tried."

Juan Antonio Samaranch had been voted in as President in Moscow, the last to be elected in an Olympic year. He beat the German Willi Daume, skiing supremo Marc Hodler of Switzerland and Canadian Jim Worrall.

Samaranch had become an IOC member in 1966 and later recalled his election.

"In theory, Spain should not have had a second member at the time, but Brundage said to me, 'One day you will be President'."

Some were troubled by his involvement with General Franco's regime. When democracy returned to Spain. Samaranch became ambassador to Moscow. He built bridges where none existed, though he was criticised during his Presidency for presenting the Olympic order to East German leader Erich Honecker and Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu.

He could not prevent a tit for tat Eastern bloc boycott of the 1984 Games in Los Angeles despite his best diplomatic efforts. The boycott was confirmed on the very day the Torch Relay began its journey across the Americas.

Even so, a record 140 countries took part in Los Angeles. The Games were a stunning success, encouraging other cities to bid. In 1986 Samaranch announced his home city Barcelona would stage the 1992 Olympics.

The problems of 1988 were still to be solved. North Korea demanded a share of hosting the Games with Seoul. Diplomacy came to nothing here, but in Sydney twelve years later, the two Koreas did march together under a special flag. It was hailed as a symbolic, if short-lived breakthrough.

By now Samaranch had put his own stamp on the Olympic Movement. The IOC had its first female members, athlete representation became a reality and the Olympic Movement introduced its own sponsorship programme.

The world itself changed between Seoul and Barcelona. The Berlin Wall fell, taking with it the old Eastern bloc. Nelson Mandela was released from prison as Apartheid ended and South Africa re-entered the Olympic arena.

As the Olympic Movement celebrated its 100th anniversary in Atlanta, Samaranch was criticised for failing to rein in his membership, particularly when the extent of corruption and inducements in Olympic bidding were revealed.

His last Olympic Games as President in 2000 was tinged with personal tragedy. His wife Marie-Therese was too ill to travel to Sydney and died as the Games began.

In 2001, the IOC returned to Moscow, the city where Samaranch had been elected President. He said goodbye by announcing Beijing would host the 2008 Olympics. The Chinese recognised his contribution when they installed statues of three great IOC Presidents in a park in the Dongsi area of Beijing. Flanking Coubertin were Rogge and Samaranch.

When the Olympic flame burns in Sochi next February, the world at large will be introduced to a new Olympic supremo. Whoever gets the job will shape the very future of world sport.

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