You Might Like
Juan Antonio Samaranch
Juan Antonio Samaranch

Juan Antonio Samaranch y Torelló, 1st Marquess of Samaranch (Catalan pronunciation: [ʒuˈan ənˈtɔni(.u) səməˈɾaŋ]; 17 July 1920 – 21 April 2010) was a Spanish sports administrator and minister of sports under the Franco regime (1973–1977) who served as the seventh President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 1980 to 2001.[1][2][3] Samaranch served the second-longest term as the head of the IOC, the longest being that of Pierre de Coubertin (29 years).

Early life

Juan Antonio Samaranch was born on 17 July 1920 in Barcelona as the third of six children in a family from the Catalan-rich bourgeoisie. On 1 December 1955, he married Maria Teresa Salisachs Rowe. With Salisachs Rowe, he had two children: Juan Antonio Junior, currently a member of the International Olympic Committee, and Maria Teresa. In 1991 he received the title of Marqués from the King of Spain for his involvement in the Olympic Movement.

Samaranch started his studies at the Business School of Barcelona, which he completed in London and the US, and obtained a diploma from the Barcelona Higher Institute of Business Studies (IESE). During his studies, he practised roller hockey, for which he created World Championships in 1951 and which the Spanish team won. While managing his family's business, he became a city councillor for the City of Barcelona responsible for sport in 1954, then Delegate for Physical Education and Sport in the Spanish Parliament in 1967. Samaranch was appointed President of the "Diputación" (provincial council) of Barcelona in 1973, until he resigned four years later, when he was appointed Spanish Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Mongolia after the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Maintaining an active career within the Olympic Movement, Samaranch was elected Vice-President of the International Mediterranean Games Committee for the second edition of the Games in Barcelona in 1955. On several occasions, he was appointed Chef de Mission: for the Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo (1956), the Summer Games in Rome (1960), and the Summer Games in Tokyo (1964). For the Rome and Tokyo Games, he was also President of the Spanish delegation. Elected a member of the Spanish Olympic Committee in 1956, he became its President in 1967 until 1970. He was elected as an IOC member in 1966. Two years later, Avery Brundage appointed him Head of Protocol (1968–1975 and 1979–1980). A member of the Executive Board (1970–1978 and 1979–1980), he was IOC Vice-President from 1974 to 1978. Elected to the IOC presidency in the first round of voting on 16 July 1980 at the 83rd Session, he succeeded Lord Killanin on 3 August that year.

Juan Antonio Samaranch endeavoured to breathe new life into the Olympic Movement. He acceded to the IOC presidency during the troubled political period of the Games of the XXII Olympiad in Moscow. Above all, he sought to give back unity to the Olympic family by defending its cause on his numerous trips and meetings with heads of state and sports leaders. In 1981, he obtained for the IOC the status of non-governmental international organisation and became the first IOC President, after Pierre de Coubertin, to establish himself in Lausanne. He was also in favour of the integration of women into the Olympic Movement, and during the Baden-Baden Congress gained permission for women to become members of the IOC. At his instigation, the IOC became involved in various initiatives to promote women and sport.

Among his accomplishments are his many activities to promote peace through the Olympic Movement. He managed to include both the NOC of the People's Republic of China and that of Chinese Taipei; with the assistance of Kéba Mbaye, he contributed to the reintegration of South Africa into the Olympics after the abolition of apartheid; he visited Sarajevo during the civil war to express Olympic solidarity;[4] and, thanks to his determination, the two Koreas marched under the same flag at the opening ceremony in Sydney.

For sport, he intensified the IOC's support to organise Paralympic Games as from the Winter Games in Sarajevo in 1984. He also made doping a priority issue by launching vast research and control programmes. The creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999 allowed the IOC Medical Commission to extend its scope of action. One of the major transformations of the Olympic Movement is undoubtedly the end of amateurism, and professionals' access to Olympic competitions, in accordance with the vision that Juan Antonio Samaranch gave to the athlete. Finally, it was under his presidency that the Summer and Winter Games were organised every two years, instead of in the same year, still respecting the gap of four years.

Among the reforms to the running of the IOC, he imposed a new financial policy which allowed for the increase in revenues and the diversification of resources. Thanks to a large share of the revenues generated by agreements with TV channels, he restructured Olympic Solidarity in 1981 and provided assistance to National Olympic Committees in difficulty, and developed action plans to contribute to the universality of the Games.

On 23 June 1993, the inauguration of the Olympic Museum, representing the memory and spirit of modern Olympism, the work of his career, crowned his presidency. On 16 July 2001, he left the seat of the IOC presidency to Jacques Rogge. Samaranch became Honorary Life President of the IOC and was awarded the Gold Olympic Order upon standing down from the presidency. The IOC also voted to change the name of the Olympic Museum to the Samaranch Museum.[5]

He died on the 21 April 2010 at the age of 89, in Barcelona.

Business and political career

After actively participating in the Spanish Civil War, Samaranch studied commerce at IESE Business School in Barcelona. He had a short career as a sports journalist for La Prensa, which ended in his dismissal in 1943 for criticising the supporters of Real Madrid C.F. after that club's 11–1 defeat of FC Barcelona, and then joined his family's textile business. He joined the board of La Caixa, Spain's largest savings bank, in 1984, and served as President of the board from 1987 to 1999. He remained as honorary president from his retirement in 1999 to his death.[6]

Samaranch served on the municipal government of Barcelona, with responsibility for sports, from 1955 to 1962. He was a procurador (member of the lower house) of the Cortes Españolas during the last decade of the Franco regime, from 1964 until the restoration of democracy in 1977. From 1967 to 1971, he also served as "national delegate" (minister) for sports, and from 1973 to 1977 he was the president of the diputación (governing council) of the Province of Barcelona. He was appointed Spanish ambassador to the Soviet Union and Mongolia in 1977, immediately after the restoration of diplomatic relations between the countries: this post helped him to gain the support of the Soviet bloc countries in the election to the presidency of the IOC, held in Moscow in 1980.[6]

He had been the chef de mission of the Spanish team at a number of Olympic events, before he was appointed Government Secretary for Sports by Spanish Head of State Francisco Franco in 1967. He also became the president of the Spanish National Olympic Committee and a member of the IOC. He was vice-president of the IOC from 1974 to 1978.

IOC Presidency

Samaranch became President elect in 1980 at the 83rd IOC Session (15–18 July) which was held in Moscow prior to the 1980 Summer Olympics—and took office soon after the Games.[7]

During his term, Samaranch made the Olympic Games financially healthy, with big television deals and sponsorships. Although the 1984 Summer Olympics were still boycotted by the Soviet bloc, the number of IOC participating member nations 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.

One achievement of Samaranch was the financial rescue of the IOC, which was in financial crisis in the 1970s. The games themselves were such a burden on host cities that it appeared that no host would be found for future Olympiads. Under Samaranch, 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, commercialising the Olympics and making them more economically viable.[8]

He was awarded the 1990 Seoul Peace Prize.

It became a tradition for Samaranch, when giving the President's address at the close of each Summer Olympics, to praise the organisers at each Olympiad for putting on "the best ever" Games.[9][10]

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 served the second-longest term as the head of the IOC, 21 years, the longest being that of Pierre de Coubertin (29 years). Following his retirement, Samaranch played a major role in Madrid's bid for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, though both were unsuccessful. In 1991, he was raised into the Spanish nobility by King Juan Carlos of Spain and given the hereditary title of Marqués de Samaranch (Marquess of Samaranch), this in recognition of his contribution to the Olympic movement.[8][11]


Samaranch married María Teresa Salisachs Rowe, known as "Bibí" (26 December 1931 – 16 September 2000), on 1 December 1955. She died in Spain while he was attending the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Two children were born of this marriage: his elder child and daughter, María Teresa Samaranch Salisachs (born 1956), has been president of the Spanish Federation of Sports on Ice since 2005,[6] while his younger child and son, Juan Antonio Samaranch Salisachs (born 1959), has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2001.


Samaranch died of cardio-respiratory failure in the Hospital Quirón in Barcelona on 21 April 2010, having suffered ill health for several years prior to his death.[12]

As a recipient of the Gold Medal of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Samaranch was laid in state in the Palau de la Generalitat. His funeral mass was in the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, on 22 April 2010 and was attended by representatives of the Spanish royal family and of the Olympic movement.[12][13][14] He was buried at the Montjuïc Cemetery.[14] After his death, in June 2010 the Juan Antonio Samaranch Olympic and Sport Museum and the Olympic Hall Juan Antonio Samaranch, formerly Olympic Hall Zetra, in Sarajevo were renamed in his honour.

Honours and awards

  • In 1982, he was awarded the Cup Stadium for the promotion of Spanish sport.
  • In 1988, he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Sports and the Peace Prize awarded by South Korea.
  • Member of the Académie Française des Sports.
  • In 1986, he was named president of the credit institution La Caixa, which was already a member advisor since 1984.
  • In 2010, he was awarded with the "Excellence Guirlande d'Honneur" by the FICTS.[27]
  • In 2016, he was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame.

See also

You Might Like