LONDON (AP) - Juan Antonio Samaranch, a former International
Olympic Committee president, died Wednesday. He was 89.
The Quiron Hospital in Barcelona said Samaranch died after being
admitted with heart problems.
Samaranch headed the IOC from 1980 to 2001. He retired as the
second-longest serving president in the history of the IOC. He was
succeeded by current president Jacques Rogge.
Samaranch was a reserved but shrewd dealmaker whose 21-year term
was marked by the unprecedented growth of the Olympics and the Salt
Lake City corruption scandal.
The former Spanish diplomat was considered one of the defining
presidents of the IOC for building the committee into a powerful
global body and firmly establishing the Olympics as a world force.
The Samaranch era spanned political boycotts, the end of
amateurism, the explosion of commercialization, a boom in the
popularity of the games, the scourge of doping, and the Salt Lake
Ten IOC members resigned or were expelled for accepting improper
inducements from the Salt Lake bid committee. Samaranch then pushed
through a series of reforms to clean up the IOC, including a ban on
member visits to bid cities.
When Samaranch came to power in 1980, the IOC was virtually
bankrupt and the Olympics were battered by boycotts, terrorism and
When he left, the IOC's coffers were bulging from billions of
dollars in commercial revenues, the boycott era was over, and the
games were entrenched as the world's favorite sports festival.
Even in retirement, Samaranch remained active in Olympic circles
and tried to help Madrid secure the 2012 and 2016 Games. Madrid
finished third behind winner London and Paris for the 2012
Olympics, and second to Rio de Janeiro for 2016.
Despite his advancing age and medical troubles, Samaranch
continued to travel to IOC meetings around the world. He looked
increasingly frail in recent months. Attending the IOC session at
the Winter Games in Vancouver in February, he walked with the aid
of a female assistant.
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