Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC chairman from 1980 to 2001, presenting Madrid's bid for the 2016 Olympics. (Getty Images)
(ATR) Former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch died Wednesday in Barcelona.
He was 89.
Samaranch had been admitted to the Quiron Hospital on Sunday with heart problems.
A memorial service could be held as early as 10 a.m. Thursday in Barcelona, with its timing in accordance with Spanish culture.
"I cannot find the words to express the distress of the Olympic Family," IOC president Jacques Rogge 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. I can only pay tribute to his tremendous achievements and legacy, and praise his genuine devotion to the Olympic Movement and its values. We have lost a great man, a mentor and a friend who dedicated his long and fulfilled life to Olympism."
At the IOC session in Copenhagen last October, Samaranch spoke on behalf of the Madrid bid for the 2016 Olympics.
"I know that I am very near the end of my time," he said as he asked colleagues to vote for Madrid, which lost to Rio de Janeiro on the final
Juan Antonio Samaranch and IOC President Jacques Rogge at the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. (Getty Images)
Samaranch stepped down as IOC president in 2001 after 21 years in the post, retaining the title of IOC honorary life president. Just days after his retirement, he was hospitalized for several weeks and has had occasional hospital stays since then.
In October last year Samaranch was admitted to a hospital in Monaco after becoming ill at the Sportel TV convention.
He maintained an active travel schedule since retiring, attending the first two weeks of the Vancouver Olympics. However, In an interview with Around the Rings last year, Samaranch said he was trying to reduce his travels.
In a statement, the IOC called Samaranch "a hugely energetic man" and said he "managed to maintain the quality of the Games and increase the number of participating countries.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former US President Bill Clinton and Atlanta 1996 President Billy Payne during the Opening Ceremonies of the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. (Getty Images)
He was the man behind improving the financial health of the Olympic Movement, developing TV rights and sponsorship negotiations and strengthening Olympic Solidarity, the organ by which the IOC redistributes its revenue in order to ensure the training and participation of athletes at the Olympic Games.
The IOC said Samaranch was also responsible for the new IOC headquarters building in Vidy and for inaugurating The Olympic Museum in Lausanne. "He will also be remembered for championing the representation of women in the IOC, overseeing the entry of the first women members in the 1980s. He was likewise responsible for setting up the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and for involving the athletes themselves in the decision-making of the IOC by creating the IOC Athletes' Commission."
Samaranch, whose wife, Maria Teresa Salisachs, died in 2000 during the Sydney Olympics, is survived by a son, Juan Antonio Jr., known as Juanito, who joined the IOC in 2001, and a daughter, Maria Teresa.
Written by Ed Hula and Karen Rosen.
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