Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games, in this prestigious gallery of iconic figures at the Grevin Museum.GETTY IMAGES

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, often referred to as the "Father of Olympism", entered the Musée Grevin last Tuesday, just a few weeks before the opening ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Sculpted by the German artist Claus Velte, the 7th arrondissement native has been immortalised at the age of 31, the same age he was on 23 June 1894 when he founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during a ceremony at the Sorbonne University.

It took the artist almost six months to complete, using a single photograph and under the watchful eye of members of the Pierre de Coubertin Family Association. The work will join the famous collection of wax figures on 18 June 2024. More than 600 places in France and 40 in the world now bear the name of Pierre de Coubertin.

Personalities such as Véronique Berecz, Director of External Relations, and Yves Delhommeau, Director of the Grevin Museum, welcomed the guests with great hospitality. Alexandra de Nacavelle de Coubertin, great-grandniece of Pierre de Coubertin and member of the Association Familiale Pierre de Coubertin, honoured the event with her presence, adding a personal and emotional dimension to the ceremony.

With the values of the 21st century, certain phrases or facts are used to sow doubt, even to discredit this aristocrat, born in 1863 and imbued with the ideas of his time and his social milieu. "Paris-2024 has not done much for Pierre de Coubertin, neither to promote him nor to make him known", complains Diane de Navacelle, the great-grandniece of the baron, in an interview with AFP.

David Lappartient, President of the International Cycling Union, President of the Département of Morbihan and President of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, also attended the event, underlining the importance of this tribute in a year when Paris is preparing to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

It is a legendary but controversial figure who is being exhibited in the famous Grévin Museum,  located on the Grands Boulevards in Paris. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, is controversial today for his misogynistic views.

He was opposed to "a small women's Olympiad alongside the great men's Olympiad", while favouring colonialism and fostering a certain friendship with the Nazi regime, as he had indeed expressed his admiration many times for the grandiose organisation of the 1936 Berlin Games.

But he was also a visionary who promoted the practice of sport in schools and launched the modern Olympic Games by associating them with values such as respect for one's opponent, loyalty and universality, some of which were taken from the codes of the aristocracy of his time.

When Pierre de Coubertin conceived the Olympic Games, he wanted to reserve the event for men and a certain social elite, far removed from today's notion of universalism, sports historian Patrick Clastres noted in an interview with AFP.

Missionary or humanist, mysogynist and reactionary at the same time? It's true that he has to be seen in context, but even in his own time he was never an avant-gardist. And he was never a progressive, and in some respects he was even more of a reactionary, or at least a conservative," said Clastres.

But his vision of sport has become universal. "Coubertin's ideals, although they have been combined and transformed by his successors, are those of international peace through sporting encounters, the idea of fraternity, the idea that there would be no social class, no race, the idea of a sport that would be a space of neutrality. These are ideas that the whole of humanity is debating. It was not in the sense that Coubertin had thought of it, but that is how it was transformed throughout the 20th century," he said.

As president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he organised the first games in Paris (1900), which went completely unnoticed. Offended, Coubertin fought for two decades to bring the Games back to his city, which he achieved in 1924. He then retired, to the relief of the IOC, which did not like his autocratic style.

At the time of his death, this paradoxical figure, who spanned eras and social classes, left a surprising testament: he asked that his body be buried in Lausanne (Switzerland), but that his heart be taken to Olympia to rest at the site of the ancient games. There it remains, in a stele where Olympic enthusiasts come to pay homage to the controversial father of the modern Games.

Since its opening in 1882 on the Grands Boulevards in Paris, the Grevin Museum has been a place of culture and entertainment. Attracting over 900,000 visitors a year, the museum is renowned for its dynamic, interactive exhibits. The wax figure of Coubertin will join a host of other notable personalities, like athletes Teddy Riner and Martin Fourcade.