POSTED: April 21st 2010

Olympic family mourns Juan Antonio Samaranch, the great moderniser

Juan Antonio Samaranch: IOC president for 21 years
Juan Antonio Samaranch: IOC president for 21 years

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

TAMPA/MADRID, Apr 21: Juan Antonio Samaranch, the man who forced the Olympic movement to adjust to the real world and embrace sport’s modern commercial era, has died aged 89.

Samaranch, born in Barcelona on July 17, 1920, was the seventh president of the International Olympic Committee from 1980 to 2001. He made his last appearance on the main IOC stage at congress in Copenhagen last autumn.

In a tribute today his presidential successor, Dr Jacques Rogge, said: “I cannot find the words to express the distress of the Olympic family. I am personally deeply saddened by the death of the man who built up the Olympic Games of the modern era, a man who inspired me, and whose knowledge of sport was truly exceptional.

“Thanks to his extraordinary vision and talent, Samaranch was the architect of a strong and unified Olympic Movement. I can only pay tribute to his tremendous achievements and legacy, and praise his genuine devotion to the Olympic Movement and its values. We have lost a great man, a mentor and a friend who dedicated his long and fulfilled life to Olympism.”


Samaranch served as a diplomat, senior ambassador and sports administrator before leading the IOC for 21 years. One of his priorities was to rid the Olympics of the stigma of ‘shamateurism’ but he also had to guide the movement through the stormy days of boycotts in Moscow in 1980 and in Los Angeles in 1984.

He brought the movement to undreamed-of wealth by hard bargaining over television rights and sponsorship while simultaneously strengthening Olympic Solidarity through which the IOC redistributes revenue to assist athletes’ training and Games participation.

Samaranch's legacy includes the new Olympic headquarters building in Vidy, the Olympic Museum in Lausanne and the entry of the first women members into the IOC.  He was also responsible for setting up the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and for involving athletes in the decision-making process by creating the IOC Athletes’ Commission.

Keywords · Samaranch · IOC · Olympic family · Rogge

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