• Short Summary

    Juan Antonio Samaranch retires as president of the
    International Olympic Committe next week leaving behind an
    organistation that has grown into a multi-million dollar
    success story.

  • Description

    Juan Antonio Samaranch retires as president of the
    International Olympic Committe next week leaving behind an
    organistation that has grown into a multi-million dollar
    success story. His tenure since 1980 has also been blighted by
    bribery scandals and the ongoing struggle against doping.

    Spaniard Samaranch steps down as International Olympic
    Committee (IOC) president in Moscow next week, the same city
    he was elected in 1980. He has to be credited with turning the
    Olympics into a commercial success since he took charge but
    his two decades in charge have also suffered from the biggest
    bribery scandal in the organisation's history and a series of
    high-profile drug cases.

    The last years of Samaranch's reign saw the Salt Lake
    bribery scandal when 10 members were forced to leave the
    organisation for breaking rules on accepting gifts from the
    U.S. city when it was bidding successfully for the 2002 Winter
    Games. The outgoing IOC president admits the scandal in 1999
    was one of his two worst moments in the job.

    "There were two bad moments. One was when the Soviet Union
    declared a boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games," Samaranch
    said in an interview with Reuters. "The second thing was the
    months we suffered during the Salt Lake City problem."
    When Samaranch took over the IOC, hosting the Olympics was
    characterised by the 1976 Montreal Games where a huge
    financial burden was put on Canadian taxpayers. The Olympic
    Stadium in the city is not expected to be paid for before

    Samaranch changed the picture dramatically with
    billion-dollar deals for televisions rights and sponsorship of
    the Games. The IOC took its marketing programme in-house and
    struck agreements with some of the world's biggest blue chip

    The result has been that cities hosting the Olympics finish
    with black figures on their books rather than with debts.

    The increasing number of bids to host future Olympics is
    evidence of how countries now see the Games as a major boost
    to their economy and infrastructure as well as to sport. "The
    great revolution in the world of sport is television,"
    Samaranch said. "Television has changed sport in many ways.

    But also in economical ways because the main resources we have
    are coming from television."
    But this has all come at a price. Some have criticised the
    IOC for over-commercialisation. In truth, however, the
    Olympics, without advertising signs or individually-sponsored
    events, provides a clear contrast to some sports where
    athletes and stadiums are turned into billboards.

    The negative side-effects of the commercialisation of
    sport have been the cancer of performance-enhancing drugs and
    a culture of gift and benefit-giving to IOC members in the
    fiercely competitive bidding races for Games. The IOC was
    accused of not stamping down soon enough on the excessive free
    trips of members and Samaranch faced calls to quit from the
    media at the height of the Salt Lake scandal. Visits to
    candidate cities were later banned. But Samaranch had to call
    a vote of confidence from IOC members which he won with ease.

    The size of the drugs problem shocked the world at the
    1988 Seoul Olympics when Canadian Ben Johnson tested positive
    for steroids after winning the 100 metres final. But asked why
    he did not include the Johnson scandal in the lowest moments
    of his career, Samaranch said: "It was not the worst moment.

    It was a scandal, yes. But Ben Johnson was suspended by the

    "I will not say it was an excellent moment for the IOC but the
    suspension of Ben Johnson was positive because since his
    suspension nearly all the international federations began to
    fight against doping with us."
    The IOC has set up the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in
    the last two years to respond to the drugs crisis and has made
    progress by introducing a new test for the stamina-boosting
    drug EPO. But sport is constantly playing catch-up with the

    Samaranch has enjoyed his triumphs, especially in the
    political field. Perhaps his finest hour was the Seoul
    Olympics when he brought together the world after three
    Olympics dominated by boycotts in the Cold War and apartheid
    eras. He also saw the Chinese team compete in LA in 1984
    despite the withdrawal of Russia.

    One of his proudest moments was bringing the Games to his
    own city of Barcelona in 1992. He said: "It was a fantastic
    success not only as a Games but because they transformed my
    city. Nowadays you can talk about Barcelona before the Olympic
    Games and Barcelona after the Olympic Games."
    Less memorable was the Atlanta Games in 1996.

    Organisational problems and accusations of gross
    over-commercialisation were overshadowed by a pipe bomb
    explosion which killed one person and injured many more in an
    Olympic park.

    During his reign Samaranch has also witnessed the
    welcoming back to the sporting arena of South Africa after the
    bleak years of apartheid -- presenting Nelson Mandela with a
    medal on one memorable meeting with the former South African

    Last year Samaranch spoke in front of 80,000 people and
    the pope in Rome's Olympic Stadium while other memorable
    images of his 20 years in charge saw him calling for peace in
    the Balkans when he visited war-torn Bosnia and the shattered
    ruins of Sarajevo, host city for the 1984 Winter Olympics.

    Looking back on his time in office he said: "This has been
    a long presidency, but I can tell you that almost all of it
    has been very positive. I won't say that I've had lots of fun,
    but I've had a great time and it has been a great honour to be
    president of the International Olympic Committee. When there
    were bad times, for example the Salt Lake City crisis, I had
    to demonstrate that I was not only a president for the good
    times but also the bad times."
    Samaranch was recently awarded the Order of Honour by
    Russian President Vladimir Putin. The award was given for his
    "active role in developing Russian Olympic and sport

    Samaranch factfile:
    Born on 17 July 1920 in Barcelona.

    Elected as an IOC member in 1966, then Chief of Protocol in

    In 1970, he became a member of the Executive Board, and vice
    president of the IOC from 1974 to 1978.

    In 1977, Samaranch was appointed Ambassador to Moscow
    (1977-1980). He returned to the Executive Board in 1979, as
    Chief of Protocol.

    Elected to the presidency of the IOC in the first ballot on 16
    July 1980.

    From the time he took up office, he tried to give a new
    direction to the Olympic Movement which was badly shaken by
    the political difficulties of the XXII Olympiad. He secured
    the IOC's status as an international non-governmental
    organization and restructured its finances.

    When the IOC found itself in crisis, because of abuses of
    trust by some of its members, he undertook major reforms to
    the structure of the institution.

    He is to step down on 16 July 2001.

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