Juan Antonio Samaranch

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Juan Antonio Samaranch, Marquess of Samaranch (born July 17, 1920 in Barcelona) is a Spanish sports official, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 1980 to 2001.

Samaranch, born into a rich family, had been the chef de mission of the Spanish team at a number of Olympic events, before he was appointed as the government secretary for sports by Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1966, also becoming the president of the Spanish National Olympic Committee and a member of the IOC. He was vice-president of the IOC from 1974 and 1978, and he was appointed as the Spanish ambassador to the Soviet Union and Mongolia from 1977 to 1980. He was created Marqués (Marquess) de Samaranch in 1991.

After the 1980 Summer Olympics, IOC president Lord Killanin resigned and Samaranch was elected as his successor. During his reign, Samaranch managed to make the Olympic Movement financially healthy, with big television deals and sponsorships. Although the 1984 Summer Olympics were still boycotted by the Eastern bloc, the number of nations with a membership of the IOC and participating increased at every Games during Samaranch's presidency. Samaranch also wanted the best athletes to compete in the Olympics, which led to the gradual acceptance of professional athletes.

Other achievements of Samaranch include the organisational restructuring of the IOC and bringing the 1992 Summer Olympics to his home town, Barcelona.

Samaranch was a controversial figure as the head of the IOC, receiving sustained criticism from a number of former athletes, politicians, and most notably British journalist Andrew Jennings in a series of books and television documentaries. Samaranch was a senior bureaucrat and (arguably) politician in a fascist regime, and many people found such a background repugnant. According to critics, Samaranch was autocratic and intolerant of dissenting voices both within and outside the organisation, with a culture of secrecy surrounding its decisions. In this context, it should be noted that Samaranch is a member of Opus Dei, an organization with similar character traits. A number of incidents of outright corruption of IOC members occurred under Samaranch's reign, which critics claim was indicative of a widespread culture of favours extorted from bidding cities by IOC members. Samaranch did, in his last years in the organisation, take steps to curb some of these excesses, but it is argued that Samaranch must have been aware of the culture for much of his reign and only acted after media pressure, much of which resulted from the scandals involving the Salt Lake City Winter Games of 2002.

One achievement of Samaranch has undoubtedly been the financial rescue of the IOC, which was in financial crisis in the 1970s, and the games were such a burden on host cities it appeared that nowhere would be found for future games. Under Samaranch, along with the help of Dick Pound, the IOC revamped its sponsorship arrangements (choosing to go with global sponsors rather than allowing each national federation to take local ones), and new broadcasting deals brought in many millions of dollars. What the IOC does with its new-found millions is, however, the subject of speculation and criticism.

In 2001, Samaranch did not apply for the presidency again. He was succeeded by Jacques Rogge. He then became Honorary President for Life of the International Olympic Committee. Samaranch also featured among the "personalities" speaking at Barcelona's 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures, quite possibly because "La Caixa" savings bank, of which Samaranch was formerly president, was one of the event's corporate sponsors. Curiously enough, the potted biography (http://www.barcelona2004.org/eng/banco_del_conocimiento/personajes/ficha.cfm?cod_personaje=1983) provided by the Forum studiously avoids any mention whatsoever of Samaranch's ministerial career under Franco's fascist dictatorship. Ironically, the Forum was built on the site of the infamous "Camp de la Bota" prison, where 1619 Republicans were shot between February 20, 1939 and December 24, 1952. The small commemorative plaque erected by former prisoners was bulldozed out of existence during the construction work for the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures.

He married Maria Teresa Salisachs Rowe, known as "Bibí" (December 26, 1931 - September 16, 2000), on December 1, 1955. Two children were born of this marriage. His son, Juan Antonio Samaranch Salisachs, is currently a member of the International Olympic Committee. He also has a daughter, Maria Teresa.

Presidents of the IOC
Demetrius Vikelas | Pierre de Coubertin | Henri de Baillet-Latour | Sigfrid Edström | Avery Brundage | Lord Killanin | Juan Antonio Samaranch | Jacques Rogge
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es:Juan Antonio Samaranch fr:Juan Antonio Samaranch id:Juan Antonio Samaranch nl:Juan Antonio Samaranch pl:Juan Antonio Samaranch


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