British Olympic Association

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 4 (July/August 2012), Volume 20

Revd Robert de Courcy Laffan, secretary of the heavily Tory British Olympic Association. The BOA did everything it could to prevent Irish athletes from representing ‘Ireland’ in any Olympic Games.

Revd Robert de Courcy Laffan, secretary of the heavily Tory British Olympic Association. The BOA did everything it could to prevent Irish athletes from representing ‘Ireland’ in any Olympic Games.

The British Olympic Association (BOA) was founded in 1906 and some of its key members rose to prominence in the International Olympic Committee (IOC), helped by their hosting of the 1908 Olympics in London. The BOA was heavily Tory in its political make-up, and correspondence between its secretary and Baron de Coubertin of the IOC shows that it was greatly concerned by the moves of the British Liberal government to advance Home Rule for Ireland from 1910 onwards. A remarkable letter from Revd Robert de Courcy Laffan (born in Kingstown, now Dún Laoghaire), secretary of the BOA, to the even more right-wing Baron de Coubertin on 15 December 1910 showed the political concerns of the BOA very clearly:
‘Thank you for your wishes for this unhappy country. You already know the election results—the more things change, the more they stay the same. We are where we were and it seems all depends on the king. It is, I think, certain that Asquith will do everything he can to get from him the promise of creating enough peers to turn the House of Lords into a government satellite. Whether the king consents or not, we will very soon find an even more dangerous crisis on our hands.’

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