Five founding nations –Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands- created CISM while meeting in Nice at a fencing event on 18 February 1948. Although they were only European countries, CISM founding nations did have a global project in mind.
This desire among the military to meet in sports arenas instead of battlegrounds was nothing new in 1948. Indeed, just after the First World War, the first Interallied Games were organized upon the initiative of General Pershing and his entourage with 18 nations representing five continents. In 1919, 1500 athletes competed in 24 different sports in front of a large audience in Joinville in the Paris suburbs.
Following the Second World War, American General Joseph McNarney (Commanding General U.S. Forces in Europe), looked at the success of the 1919 Interallied Games in Paris and helped form the twelve member-nation Allied Forces Sports Council in 1946. The first Allied Forces Sports Council Meeting was held on 7 February 1946 with eleven nations from: Belgium, Czechoslovkia, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Russia and the United States.
The second meeting of the Council devoted to drawing up schedules of tournaments, which included the first Council Championship (Swimming) held in Nurnberg, Germany 16-18 August 1946. Greece was accepted as the twelfth nation during the third Council meeting in 1946.
Sometimes referred to as the Second Interallied Games, the Allied Forces European Track and Field Championship was held at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany from 7-8 September 1946, producing over 120,000 spectators.
As several nations slowly withdrew from the Allied Forces Sports Council, during a Council-scheduled Fencing Championship in February 1948 the remaining members of the Council, led by the efforts of French Captain Henri Debrus and Belgium Lieutenant Raoul Mollet agreed to the formation of CISM on 18 February 1948. Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands became the five founding members with Debrus named as the first CISM President.
Since its foundation in 1948, CISM’s universality became increasing real, developed as it was by the Presidents and Secretaries General who led the organization over the years. In 1950, Argentina and Egypt joined the –by then – nine European countries. In 1951, it was the USA’s turn to join. In 1952, Iraq, the Lebanon, Pakistan and Syria became members.
Over the years, membership has progressed at a steady pace. The emergence of Cold War and the setting up of SKDA- a military sports organization whose member nations were also members of the Warsaw Pact-denied CISM the official universal status it craved and needed to be recognized by the IOC. But the political turmoil at the end of the 80’s and more specifically the fall of the Berlin wall all of a sudden gave renewed impetus to CISM’s expansion. In the space of just four years (1991-1995), 31 new member countries joined the organization. Such rapid progress led to recognition by international institutions as the IOC.
Another important event in CISM history occurred in September 1995 with the organization of the 1st Military World Games in Rome. CISM has become, with its 139 member nations, its annual world, continental and regional sports calendar, the high level of its competitors (The International Military Sports Council can no longer keep track of the countless world and continental champions who are also renowned for their exploits within civilian competition), one of the biggest sports institution in the world.