As a result of the great success of the Turkish wrestlers at 1948 World Olympic Games and the European Wrestling Championships, it was decided that the 1949 European Wrestling Championship would be organized in Istanbul. Although, Istanbul was a city where the modern Turkish sports had been organised, there weren’t any sports halls in the city.
In order to fulfill this need, an architectural project was prepared by Paolo Vietti-Violi, the famed Italian architect of Dolmabahce Inonu Stadium and other Turkish architects Sinasi Sahingiray and Fazil Aysu. Immediately, the foundations of the Istanbul Sports and Exhibition Centre were laid by Dr. Lutfi Kirdar, the Mayor and the Governor of Istanbul, on December 30th, 1948. During the foundation ceremony, it was suggested by the Head of Istanbul Football and Sportsmen Federation that the Centre would be named after Dr. Lutfi Kirdar. But Mr. Kirdar stated that he would not accept any establishment to be named after him while he was still alive.
The European Wrestling Championship was held in Istanbul Sports and Exhibition Centre on June 3rd, 1949. Following the Championship, Istanbul International Commerce and Industry Fair was held on October 2nd, 1949.
In the following years, national and international competitions such as basketball, volleyball, handball, wrestling, boxing, weight lifting, ice hockey, ice skating, dance and circus shows, fairs, big concerts, meetings and exhibitions were organized in the largest hall of the Centre. The Istanbul Sports and Exhibition Centre had remained as Turkey's only indoor sports and exhibition hall for many years.
As Dr. Lutfi Kirdar did not accept to have his name given to the establishments he contributed to when he was still alive, the building was renamed as “Istanbul Lutfi Kirdar Sports and Exhibition Centre” on February 17th, 1988 following the years of his death.
Istanbul Lutfi Kirdar Sports and Exhibition Centre continued to operate as a sports and exhibition venue between 1988 - 1996. After United Nations decided to organize Habitat II Summit in Istanbul in 1996, the biggest and most extensive conference of the United Nations in the 20th century, the centre was renamed as “International Convention Centre” and started to serve the Turkish meeting industry under the name “Istanbul Lutfi Kirdar International Convention and Exhibition Centre - ICEC”. Since then, the centre continues to be the leading convention and exhibition centre of Turkey.