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  • Funeral Not the Last Memorial for Samaranch


    A funeral service for Juan Antonio Samaranch took place in Barcelona on Thursday. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) Even as Juan Antonio Samaranch is laid to rest after two services in Barcelona Thursday, plans are being made to hold other memorials for the former IOC president, Around the Rings has learned.

    With his funeral held just after a day following his death from heart failure, dozens of former IOC colleagues were unable to attend the service on such quick notice.

    IOC President Jacques Rogges, who did attend, has apparently indicated an interest in organizing two more memorials: one in Lausanne and a second in Singapore at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore this August.

    The subject is likely to come up early in next week’s meeting of the IOC Executive Board in Dubai. And Samaranch’s death and legacy probably can’t be ignored at the SportAccord convention that is being held around the EB meeting.

    The first service for Samaranch was held at the Palau Generalitat, home to the government of Catalunya.

    Government leaders, colleagues stood in the chandeliered hall, Samaranch’s coffin, covered by the Olympic flag at the front.

    "We've come from the four corners of the world to say farewell to an old friend and great man,” said Rogge, calling his predecessor “the most influential President after our founder Pierre de Coubertin."

    IOC members on hand for the service included vice president Thomas Bach, Patrick Hickey, also president of the European Olympic Committees, IAAF president Lamine Diack and C.K. Wu, the International Boxing Association president who turned around from Baku where he was about to attend the world junior championships now underway in the Azeri capital.

    The second service, a Roman Catholic funeral, was held in the afternoon at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia in the Barrio Gotico district of the city.

    Samaranch continues to receive an outpouring of tributes.
    IOC member and Olympian Sergey Bubka tells Around the Rings that “I can say a lot about Samaranch”.

    His eyes welling with tears as he spoke on the sidelines at the Convention of African Sports in Johannesburg, South Africa, Bubka recalled how Samaranch led the way to bring athletes into the IOC, first with the creation of the IOC Athletes Commission and then conferring IOC membership on those elected to the commission.

    “He always trusted the athletes. Not only in the field of competition but outside of the competition. He believed that athletes could be in governing bodies, in top positions,” says Bubka, who like others say Samaranch always was a source of advice and counsel.

    South African IOC member Sam Ramsamy says
    Juan Antonio Samaranch greeted Gerhard Heiber, then president of the Lillehammer organizing committee, during the opening ceremony for the 1994 Games. (Getty Images)
    Samaranch played a major role in the return of South Africa to the Olympics after banishment because of apartheid.

    “He opened the doors for us for international participation. That is something South Africa will never forget,” Ramsamy tells ATR at the sports convention in Johannesburg.

    Gerhard Heiberg of Norway, who became an IOC member at the close of the Lillehammer Olympics he led as OCOG president, tells Around the Rings Samaranch was a good source of counsel.

    “I had a very close working relationship with Mr. Samaranch in connection with the Games in Lillehammer 1994. I met him in 1989. He was very supportive, helpful and willing to listen. His door was always open and I really needed his pieces of advice in the beginning. He contributed a lot to the success of the Lillehammer Games. I am very, very grateful for the time I have spent with him,” says Heiberg.

    And from Cuba come condolences from the Castro family: Fidel, brother Raul who sent a wreath of roses to Barcelona.

    Fidel’s son, Dr. Antonio Castro Soto del Valle, a leader in Cuban baseball, says he last saw Samaranch in September 2009 at an international match held in Barcelona.
    IOC President Jacques Rogges attended the funeral. (Getty Images)

    He tells ATR’s source in Havana that Samaranch expressed disappointment over baseball being dropped from the Olympics.

    “But he had advice, some ideas as to how baseball might find a way to return to the Olympics,” he tells ATR’s man in Havana.

    “He was very knowledgeable and very interested in learning more about the recent results of Cuba in sport,” said Castro Soto.

    The most famous detractor of Samaranch, British muckraker Andrew Jennings, weighed-in Thursday in London newspapers with his “appreciation” of the late IOC president, dwelling on Samaranch’s fealty to the regime of facist dictator Francisco Franco.

    “The high point of his Olympic career should have been the Barcelona games of 1992 but his image was damaged when two British reporters revealed his fascist record and alleged corruption within the IOC,” said Jennings, one of those reporters who wrote the expose “Lords of the Rings”.

    Photo Tribute: IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch 1920-2010

    Written by Ed Hula.

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