Russian Usmanov donates $8.8 million Olympic document to Games museum


BERLIN (Reuters) – Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov came out on Monday as the mystery buyer of the original 1892 Olympic manifesto, the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold at auction, when he donated it to the Olympic museum in Lausanne.

The businessman, who also heads the international fencing federation, had bought the 14-page document penned by International Olympic Committee founder Pierre de Coubertin, advocating the resurrection of the ancient Greek Games, for a record $8.8 million at auction in New York back in December.

Usmanov’s identity had been kept under wraps at the end of a 12-minute long bidding war between three international buyers, that had sent the price from the top estimate of $1 million to the record $8.8 million, according to auctioneer Sotheby’s.

“Today we are witnessing history,” IOC President Thomas Bach said at a ceremony in Lausanne, headquarters of the IOC and the site of the Olympic museum.

“At one level, we are witness to this historic document, the manuscript of the speech that laid out the philosophical foundations of the Olympic Movement.”

“On another level, we are witnessing a historic moment with this manuscript returning to its Olympic home, the place where it belongs.”

Usmanov, who held a 30 percent stake in Premier League club Arsenal until 2018 and last month bought naming rights for Everton’s stadium for 30 million pounds, said the document had to come back to its home.

“This manuscript is the manifesto for the modern Olympic Games. I believe that the Olympic Museum is the most appropriate place to keep this priceless manuscript,” he said.

A New York Yankees jersey worn by Babe Ruth was previously the most expensive item of sports memorabilia, selling for $5.64 million last year.

The first modern Olympics took place in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Tokyo will host the latest edition of the Games in July.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Gareth Jones