Robert Knight Barney was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, U.S.A., in 1932. Though he remains an American citizen, he has lived and worked in Canada at The University of Western Ontario for 37 years, gaining Professor Emeritus rank in 1996. He was educated at the University of New Mexico (UNM), earning his Ph.D. in 1968. A three-sport (football, baseball, swimming) intercollegiate athlete at UNM, he subsequently was a collegiate swimming coach, a director of athletics, and a professor of kinesiology specializing in the teaching and research/writing of sport history. He has published some 250 pieces on sport history, almost 150 of them in the field of Olympic history. His best-known work is the seminal study of Olympic commercialism, the 2003 award-winning book, Selling the Five Rings: The International Olympic Committee and the Rise of Olympic Commercialism.
Dr. Barney has served as president of the North American Society for Sport History (1990–1992), as executive council member of the International Society of Olympic History (1998–2008), and as director of the International Center for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario, where he continues to be active. He is founder and long-time co-editor of Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies, the first-ever scholarly journal dedicated solely to the study of broad themes related to Olympic socio-cultural issues. He is recipient of the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Order (1998), the North American Society for Sport History’s Recognition Award for “Exceptional Contributions to the Study of Sport History” (2003), and the International Society of Olympic Historians’ Pierre de Coubertin Award for “lifetime achievements in advancing Olympic scholarship” (2009).