New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to join the modern Olympic Movement which was founded by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin in 1894.
The origins the Olympic Movement in New Zealand stem from a crucial meeting between de Coubertin and Athletics New Zealand's Leonard Albert Cuff (1866-1954) of Christchurch.
Leonard A Cuff, a founder and first Honorary Secretary of the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association, was in Paris as athlete/manager of the 2nd New Zealand Athletics Team when he met de Coubertin on 8 July 1892.
De Coubertin and Cuff shared common views on the educational and social value of sport and society. Consequently, when Coubertin announced on 25 November 1892 his intention to restore the Olympic Games as a means of promoting a modern Olympic philosophy, New Zealand was one of the first nations to fully support his initiative.
Cuff was subsequently elected one of the thirteen Founder Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) established on 23 June 1894 in Paris and was the first IOC member appointed to New Zealand & Australia. He held that position until 1905 and was the last of the Founder Members to die.
The name of Leonard Cuff (along with the names of the other members of the first IOC) is permanently inscribed upon a marble plaque at the Panathenean Stadium in Athens, Greece where the Games of the First Olympiad of the modern era were celebrated from 6 - 15 April 1896.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee was founded on 18 October 1911 in Wellington and formally recognised by the IOC on 5 April 1919 in Lausanne. New Zealand’s first athletes competed at an Olympic Games in 1908 in London as part of an Australasian Team.
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