News24

Former IOC chief dies at 89

2010-04-21 14:01

Barcelona - Former International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch died on Wednesday at the age of 89 at a Barcelona hospital from a cardiorespiratory arrest, the hospital said.

Samaranch, who was head of the Olympic movement from 1980-2001, passed away at 13:25 SA time at the Quiron Hospital where he was admitted on Sunday after experiencing heart trouble, it said in a statement.

An honorary president for life of the IOC, he helped to revolutionise sponsorship and broadcasting deals for major events, seeking global sponsors instead of national federations making their own local arrangements.

Only Pierre de Coubertin, the "father" of the modern Olympics and IOC chief from 1896 to 1925, has held the post longer.

IOC president Jacques Rogge paid handsome tribute to Samaranch.

"I cannot find the words to express the distress of the Olympic Family," he said in a statement.

"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."

Samaranch, who remained active in Spanish sports administration after stepping down as the head of the IOC, was a key part of Madrid's failed bids to hold the Olympics in 2012, which London eventually won, and 2016, which went to Rio de Janeiro.

"I know that I am very near the end of my time. I am 89 years old," he said in October 2009 before asking the IOC members for the honour of hosting the 2016 Games in Spain during Madrid's bid presentation in Copenhagen.

Spain's secretary of state for sport, Jaime Lissavetzky, said "we have lost the reference of world sport".

Samaranch's remains will lie in wait at the headquarters of the regional government of Catalonia in Barcelona on Thursday, the Catalan regional government said.

He had been plagued by health problems in recent years and the hospital chief of internal medicine Rafael Esteban told a news conference late on Tuesday that "given his age, we can't be optimistic".

He was taken to hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland for "extreme fatigue" on July 17, 2001, his 81st birthday, shortly after he stepped down as IOC head and in Barcelona in 2007 for high blood pressure.

His most recent hospitalisation came in 2009 in Monaco after he fainted.

Born on July 17, 1920, into a rich Catalan family which made its fortune from the textile industry, he was awarded the title of marquis by Spanish king Juan Carlos in 1991 for his work in the Olympic movement.

Samaranch's wife Maria Teresa Salisachs-Rowe, another scion of a Catalan textiles dynasty, predeceased him on September 16, 2000.

He is survived by two children, Maria Teresa and Juan Antonio Jr, who in July 2001 was elected an IOC member.

AFP