Pioneer of Olympism in the Middle East: Gabriel Gemayel and Lebanese Sport

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Religious Studies


Gabriel Gemayel, Internationalism, Lebanon, Olympic review, Olympism


Since 1947, Lebanon has fielded a team for every Olympic competition except 1956, yet has won only four Olympic medals. While the country's medal count has been small, this article argues that Lebanon's participation in the Olympics was part of a broader effort to develop Lebanese interest in sports, as well as to enhance Lebanon's position regionally and internationally. One man led both efforts: Gabriel Gemayel, the founder and long-term head of Lebanon's National Olympic Committee. This article uses official International Olympic Committee publications to examine how Gemayel promoted Lebanon to the Olympic community and promoted sports in Lebanon. Gemayel's experience highlights the ways in which elites in small states can strategically use international organisations to bolster their state. More broadly, it highlights the important role that sports organisations play in shaping the national. It further suggests that while individuals heading these organisations can play a far outsized role, their impact will be short-lived if they do not create a talent pipeline. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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