Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Juan Antonio Samaranch, former head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has died in Barcelona at the age of 89.

A former diplomat and Spanish ambassador in Moscow elected to the IOC in 1980, Samaranch was largely credited with the renewal of the Olympic movement over two decades marked by boycotts, bribery and drug scandals. While appearing to be small in stature and uncomfortable speaking in public, he was viewed as an often ruthless operator who could forge consensus within an often fractious Olympic movement and bring IOC members to deliver what he wanted.

Samaranch was admitted to hospital on Sunday with heart trouble and died at approximately 11:25 UTC, marking one of a number of occasions he has fallen ill. Even in retirement, with advancing age and medical issues, Samaranch continued to travel and be active in Olympic circles, working to try and secure both the 2012 Olympics and 2016 Olympics for Madrid as well as attending various sport conferences.

“I cannot find the words to express the distress of the Olympic Family,” current IOC president Jacques Rogge was quoted as saying, also making mention of the personal inspiration he drew from Samaranch.

During his time in office, Samaranch worked to help increase the number of participating countries at the Olympics, oversaw the creation of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the creation of the IOC Athletes Commission.

Prior to his election to the role of IOC president in 1980, he had a long background in sports, having held roles with the Spanish Skating Federation, Spanish National Olympic Committee and as Chef de Mission at the games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Rome and Tokyo.

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