The then Rhodesia Olympic Committee was formed in 1934. It reflected the racial policies of a colonial government with no participation of the majority black people in its structures and teams. Due to pressure from the International Community, Rhodesia was banned from the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in 1970. For the period 1972 to 1979, the Rhodesia Olympic Committee was suspended from the International Olympic Committee. After independence in 1980, the Rhodesia Olympic Committee suspension was lifted. In the same year, its name was changed to Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) to reflect the new political dispensation.
In 1982, The Government of Zimbabwe applied and was granted authority by the IOC to dissolve the ZOC Board and appoint the Tommy Sithole led executive to address the racial representation in the national associations. ZOC marked its re-entry into the Olympic Family by participating in the Moscow Games where it won its first Olympic Gold medal in women’s field hockey. It has since participated in all subsequent Olympic Games, winning its first individual gold medal in swimming (Kirsty Coventry) at Athens 2004.
In other international competitions, the Government appointed ZOC as its organizing agent for the All-Africa Games and Commonwealth Games. Zimbabwe’s inaugural representation in the All-Africa Games was in Nairobi, Kenya (1987) and has participated in all other continental Games since. It successfully hosted the 1995 All-Africa Games in Harare. ZOC also participated in all Commonwealth Games except the Edinburgh Games where the Government withdrew the team’s participation in protest to New Zealand playing rugby against South Africa.
In 1998, ZOC conducted its first elections since the Government appointed committee. All but one of the serving members of the appointed Committee were retained during the elections. The second elections were held in 2001. This marked the setting up of a permanent office for the ZOC. It followed in early 2002 with the appointment of the three full time staff. In the same year, the first strategic plan for ZOC was formulated resulting in a systematic growth strategy for the organization. In line with its strategic plan and to enhance its delivery to affiliates, the ZOC General Assembly abolished the post of assistant secretary general and created an additional executive board member post. In 2003, the Athletes Commission was formed with its Chairman being co-opted on to the Executive Board. Two additional fulltime staff were recruited in 2004.
At the 2005 elections, the ZOC General Assembly made significant amendments to the constitution that resulted in:
- The appointment of a full-time CEO taking over the role of an elected Secretary General.
- The expansion of the ZOC Board to include the Chair of the Athletes’ commission.
- The increase of women’s representation on the elected Board to a minimum of three.
- The increase in the number of ordinary elected board members from six to seven.