(ATR) China posthumously awarded a medal to former International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who helped Beijing get the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Juan Antonio Samaranch served as IOC president from 1980-2001 (ATR)
The distinction to Samaranch, who died in 2010, was part of a ceremony headed by President Xi Jinping for the 40th anniversary of the so-called process of reforms and opening in China.
China’s richest man Jack Ma and former NBA star Yao Ming were among 100 Chinese personalities and 10 foreigners honored "for their outstanding contributions" by the Communist Party.
According to the Chinese state media Ma, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, was a Communist Party member.
Alibaba has strengthened its relations with the IOC and organizing committees of Olympic Games in recent years.
Jack Ma with IOC President Thomas Bach (IOC)
The partnership between the Alibaba Group and the IOC began in January of 2017, when the two signed a historic, long-term strategic partnership to help transform the Olympic Games for the digital era. Alibaba also serves as a Founding Partner of the Olympic Channel through the 2028 Games.
Yao, the 7-foot-6 retired center who played for the Houston Rockets, is now an entrepreneur and member of China's top political advisory group, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Yao Ming (ATR)
The former basketball player was the flag bearer of the Chinese delegation at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The 110 people honored included scientists, inventors and academics.
The ceremony celebrated the conclave on December 18, 1978 in the Great Hall of the People where the Communist Party endorsed Deng Xiaoping's reform drive, which transformed the once poor country into the world's second largest economy.
Samaranch a Friend of China
Before, during and after his 21 years as IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch visited China 29 times.
His first trip was in 1978 as IOC vice president, which began his personal friendship with the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
After the favorite Beijing lost to Sydney in 1993 in the voting to organize the 2000 Olympic Games, Samaranch told the Chinese authorities not to be discouraged and to run again.
His suggestion came to fruition in June 2001 when in Moscow, Beijing managed to win the right to host the 2008 Olympics.
Samaranch Memorial Museum in Tianjin, China (ATR)
Before, Samaranch had contributed to solve the Olympic conflict between the two Chinas when in November 1979 their two Olympic Committees were officially announced.
The Catalan leader, who served as IOC president from 1980-2001, favored the return of China to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles 1984. During his leadership, four Chinese sports leaders joined the IOC.
The first, Zhenliang He, became a member at the 80th IOC Session in Baden Baden, in 1981. In June 1985 Zhenliang joined the Executive Committee.
On July 13, 2012, the same day of the Olympic election in Beijing in 2001, the Samaranch Foundation for Sport Development, registered in the Ministry of Civil Affairs of China, was inaugurated.
In April 2013, the Chinese port city of Tianjin opened the Memorial Museum of Juan Antonio Samaranch with more than 16,000 pieces that show its historic legacy.
The Chinese capital will make its first Olympic Winter Games in 2022 .
The president of the IOC Coordination Commission for that mega event is his son, Juan Antonio Samaranch Salisachs, vice president of the IOC, elected to the Olympic body one day after the victory of Beijing in 2001.
Written by Miguel Hernandez
For general comments or questions, click here.
25 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is AroundTheRings.com, for subscribers only.