ICF Celebrates 100 Years

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Now that’s a heckuva ride…The venerable International Canoe Federation is celebrating its centennial this year, marking 100 years since the formation of the global governing body for paddlesports.

The anniversary kicks off a year of centenary celebrations coinciding with the Paris Olympics and culminating with the ICF Congress in Antalya, Turkey in November. A commemorative book will be published later this year, while a series of articles highlighting key moments for the sport over the past 100 years will also be produced for the ICF website.

History in a Nutshell

On January 19, 1924, representatives from the National Federations of Denmark, Germany, Austria and Sweden came together to form an international paddling association. The two-day meeting was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the Danish, German, Austrian and Swedish officials agreed to name the body “Internationale Repräsentantenschaft für Kanusport”, abbreviated as “IRK”.

The purpose of the IRK was defined in five bullet points, including “to form a link between canoeing associations of the various counties” and “as far as possible to organize international competitions in paddling and sailing once a year and alternately in the various countries”.  The third point was “To promote and foster foreign touring through production of appropriate river guides and through the provision of information about the possibilities of finding accommodation and places of interest”.

Other initiatives included “to introduce on maps internationally recognized symbols for rivers in order to facilitate touring” and “to exchange canoeing information by mutually making available the various national publications on canoeing through the preparation of lectures and speakers, films and photographs, as well as through correspondence”.

Regulations for the classes of racing kayaks, sailing canoes and Canadian canoes were also agreed along with rules for international races. Franz Reinicke, who led the German Canoe Association, assumed office as the first President of the IRK following a meeting in July 1924. That year also saw flatwater canoeing, the former name of canoe sprint, feature as a demonstration sport at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.The ICF replaced the IRK as the name of the organization in 1946.

Since then, the ICF has grown enormously and now governs 10 disciplines — canoe sprint, canoe slalom, paracanoe, canoe marathon, canoe polo, wildwater canoeing, canoe freestyle, canoe ocean racing, dragon boat and Stand Up Paddling — while increasing its membership to 171 national federations.

Canoe sprint became a full medal sport at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin before being joined by canoe slalom which made its debut at Munich 1972 and has been a permanent fixture at the Games since Barcelona 1992. This year’s Olympics in Paris will also see the addition of kayak cross to the programming. Paracanoe will also make its third successive appearance at the Paralympics this year after featuring at both Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

ICF CanoeingWatch 100th Anniversary Speech from ICF President Thomas Konietzko here

 

Message from ICF President Thomas Konietzko 

Dear paddlers and enthusiasts from around the globe.

I am honored to stand before you today on this momentous occasion—the centenary of the International Canoe Federation.

As we celebrate 100 years of paddling excellence, carrying the weight of history and stories, we remember the names and faces of our dedicated stakeholders all over the world, who have paved the way for the success of canoeing. Your passion, commitment, and unwavering support have brought us to where we are today. To each one of you, I extend my heartfelt congratulations and deepest gratitude for your invaluable contributions to making our sport great!

On January 19, 1924, the International Representative Body for Canoeing was born, laying the foundation for what would become the International Canoe Federation. Since then, our journey has been nothing short of extraordinary.

From being a demonstration sport at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924 to evolving into one of the cornerstones of the Olympic Movement with 16 events, canoeing has grown into a very popular sport on a globe scale.

Our community has flourished, embracing 171 National Federations, supporting millions of recreational paddlers, and nurturing thousands of athletes who compete in approximately 32 ICF events each year. As we stand here today, we proudly represent not only Olympic disciplines but also non-Olympic disciplines like SUP and Dragon Boat, showcasing the diverse and inclusive nature of canoeing.

Today, I am excited to announce the commencement of a year-long celebration marking the ICF’s 100th anniversary. Starting on January 19, our celebration will coincide with the Paris Olympics, and throughout the year, we will host a series of activities both on and off the water. I invite every one of you—paddlers, enthusiasts, and supporters—to join us in commemorating this milestone.

The celebration will reach its peak at the ICF Congress in Antalya this November, where we will host a centenary celebration evening.

Representatives from all National Federations, partners, and esteemed guests from the International Olympic Committee and International Federations will join us to mark this historic occasion.

Today is not just a reflection on our past but a commitment to our future. The ICF is ambitious, striving to achieve even greater heights. We aim to make our sport more enjoyable to everyone, support paddlers across the globe, and elevate the world of canoeing sports. In the spirit of the ICF motto, let us always move forward! Together, we will make the next 100 years even more remarkable.

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