Juan Antonio Samaranch,
seventh IOC President

1980: Juan Antonio Samaranch, seventh IOC President

Juan Antonio Samaranch Torrelo, the Marquis de Samaranch, was elected as the seventh President of the IOC in 1980, succeeding Lord Killanin.

His sporting interests began with a short-lived boxing career, fighting under the name of “Kid Samaranch”, and then as a roller hockey player. In 1943, he became coach of the Royal Spanish Athletic Club and, two years later, he led the effort of the Spanish Roller Hockey Federation to be admitted to the International Roller Hockey Federation. In 1950, he joined the Executive Council of the International Federation.

By 1954, Samaranch had become Vice-President of the International Roller Hockey Federation, President of the Spanish Roller Hockey Federation, and a Barcelona city councillor. In 1955, he became a provincial MP and Vice-President of the Organising Committee for the second Mediterranean Games. In 1956, he was appointed to the Spanish Olympic Committee and headed the Spanish team at the Winter Games held that year in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, as the Chef de Mission. He was also Chef de Mission for the Spanish team at the Olympic Games 1960 and 1964.

Avery Brundage proposed Samaranch as an IOC Member in 1966 and, in 1967, he was named President of the Spanish Olympic Committee. In 1968, Samaranch was named IOC Head of Protocol. It was a prelude to his being elected to the Executive Board, which occurred in 1970. In 1974, he was elected Vice-President of the IOC, and was elected as the organisation’s seventh President in 1980. An itinerant President, he visited almost all of the 199 IOC member nations.

One significant aspect of Samaranch’s presidency was his work on the South African issue. After years of apartheid ended in 1991, Samaranch worked quickly to see that the South African Olympic Committee was re-admitted into the Olympic Movement, and South Africans again competed at the Olympic Games in 1992 in Barcelona.

Samaranch worked to end the international sporting segregation between amateurs and professionals and open the Olympic Games up to professionals in many sports. During his tenure, the word “amateur” was removed from the Olympic Charter, and professionals have now competed at the Olympic Games in almost all sports in which true professionals exist.

Samaranch made the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games a profitable venture. Assisted by IOC Member in Canada Richard Pound, Samaranch began the marketing of the Olympic Games, the Olympic Movement, and the Olympic name and symbols. Adding a successful marketing programme, called The Olympic Programme (TOP – which later became The Olympic Partner programme), the IOC became profitable.

In order to safeguard the ethical principles of the Olympic Movement, Samaranch formed an Ethics Commission and an IOC 2000 Commission. The purpose of the two commissions was to address the faults of the system and change the IOC structure and the host city selection process moving into the next century. The IOC was the first sports organisation to set up an independent Ethics Commission.

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