Elwood S. Brown

The YMCA building in Manila, Philippines. Image courtesy of Springfield College, Babson Library, Archives and Special Collections.

Before his involvement in the Inter-Allied Games and the International Olympic Committee, Elwood Stanley Brown had a long history of working with the YMCA.  He first began working with the Young Men’s Christian Association in Chicago, Illinois, where he stayed for about five years.  After moving to Salt Lake City for some time, Brown was named the physical director of the YMCA in Manila, Philippines.  While in the Philippines, Brown established the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation in 1911 and planned the Far Eastern Games, which were to take place in 1913.  During the Games, Brown was recognized for his talents and named the first Secretary General of the Far Eastern Athletic Association.  Later, he organized the Far Eastern Championship Games (FECG), which consisted of athletes from China, Japan, and the Philippines coming together to compete in a series of sporting events.  Stefan Hübner describes Brown’s propagation of sports amateurism as an attempt to “support a more civilized world order,” and during World War I, this was definitely necessary.  When Brown left Manila to go to Europe, he spent most of his time planning sport competitions for the army and the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).  After coming up with the idea of the Inter-Allied Games, Brown was appointed the Director-General of the Games by his old colleague General Pershing, who was the Commander in Chief of the American Expeditionary Force. Their relationship was established in Manilla, where both Brown and Pershing had served with the YMCA.

The Inter-Allied Games proved to be extremely successful, and although the Games took place in France, it was a huge accomplishment for the United States; being the country that created the event, the U.S. also sent the largest number of people to compete in the Games, about 280 soldier-athletes.  Elwood S. Brown worked with both the French and American militaries, the French government, the AEF, and the YMCA to make his idea into a reality.  His organization of the event caught the attention of Pierre de Coubertin, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who saw that Brown’s planning skills and the YMCA’s notion of “play for all” could be of great usefulness to the IOC.  Coubertin sent Brown to South America to represent both the YMCA and the International Olympic Committee.  While he was there, Elwood S. Brown created the South American Athletic Federation, which was formed to host the biennial South American Games.  Brown then went on to travel to multiple countries, including Germany, Greece, Italy, Korea, and the Philippines, all in one year.  This expedition further impressed Coubertin, and made him want to strengthen the connection between the IOC and YMCA even more.  However, when Elwood S. Brown passed away suddenly at the age of 40, the relationship between the IOC and the YMCA ended.  This did not occur because of any sort of disagreement, but only because nobody could act as a liaison quite as well as Brown did.



Ian Buchanan. “Elwood S. Brown: Missionary Extraordinary.” Journal of Olympic History (1998): 12-13.

Stephan Hübner. “Muscular Christianity and the Western Civilizing Mission: Elwood S. Brown, the YMCA, and the Idea of the Far Eastern Championship Games.” Diplomatic History 39.3 (2013): 532-57.

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