news alert: IOC’s Juan Antonio Samaranch dies (update 2)

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Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC head from 1980-2001 (1920-2010), photo ©2010 IOC

Update 14:45  Lausanne, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) - Juan Antonio Samaranch, who for 21 years headed the International Olympic Committee based in Lausanne, has died in Barcelona of heart failure. He was 89 years old. He died early Wednesday, three days after being admitted to a hospital for coronary problems.

The news was announced by the IOC in Lausanne.Samaranch headed the sports organization from 1980-2001. His tenure was the longest for the IOC after that of founder of the modern Olympics movement, Pierre de Coubertin.

Samaranch is widely credited with moving the Games in a new direction, described by the IOC as “less amateurish”, but his time as head of the IOC, often described as turbulent, was also notable on several other levels:

  • two boycotts, Moscow in 1980, with the US boycotting the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and 1984
  • a scandal over the 2002 Salt Lake City games, when it was learned that Olympics officials were bribed to award the Games to the city in 1995
  • revenues increased markedly, with TV broadcast rights helping raise the IOC’s revenues from $2 million in 1980 to $900m by 2001
  • the number of countries participating grew from 149 to 199 in his 21 years
  • the number of sports grew from 21 to 28
  • tennis returned to the Olympics at Seoul in 1988.

His interest in sports and doping problems developed into a major problem for the sports world after his retirement, but Samaranch oversaw the development of the agencies that today play crucial roles: the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 1983, an International Council of Arbitration for Sport in 1993 and the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999;

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Juan A Samaranch, IOC and South African President Nelson Mandela: the first racially mixed team of South African athletes competed in 1992 in Barcelona

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Samaranch opens the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, built at his instigation

His wife, Maria Teresa Salisachs, died in 2000, of cancer, during the Sydney Games. The couple had two children, who survive their father.

He will be buried in Barcelona after a funeral Thursday 22 April.

IOC links: IOC obituary, IOC highlights of the Samaranch years

Samaranch’s death in international media: El Pais (Spa), New York Times, Swissinfo, Times, UK