Juan Antonio Samaranch: a life dedicated to sport

21 Apr 2010
IOC News

Juan Antonio Samaranch was born on 17 July 1920 in Barcelona (Spain). He was the third of six children from a relatively wealthy Catalan family. On 1 December 1955, he married Maria Teresa Salisachs Rowe, who died in 2000. They had two children: Juan Antonio Junior, currently a member of the IOC, and Maria Teresa.

An early interest in sport

As a teenager, he was interested in sport and sports development. He practised hockey, boxing and football. He did his studies at the Business School of Barcelona, and moved on to study in London and the USA. He obtained a diploma from the Barcelona Higher Institute of Business Studies (IESE). During his studies, he practised roller hockey, for which he created World Championships in 1951 in his hometown, and which the Spanish team won.

While helping to run the family business, he became a municipal councillor in 1954 in charge of sports, then a member of the Spanish Parliament in 1967. He served as national delegate for physical education and sports for three years. In 1973, he was appointed President of the Barcelona “Diputación” (Provincial Council), from which he resigned in 1977 upon being appointed Spanish ambassador to the Soviet Union and Mongolia by King Juan Carlos I, after the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

A man of the media

In the 1950s, Samaranch took an especially keen interest in the media, realising that, without the media, sport would be unable to achieve the popularity and high profile essential to exerting an influence in modern society. He began to work for the Barcelona evening paper La Prensa, for which he covered the Games of the XV Olympiad in Helsinki in 1952 and major football encounters in the Spanish League.

An active Olympic career

At the same time, he had an active career within the Olympic Movement. He was elected Vice-President of the International Mediterranean Games Committee (CIJM) for the second edition of the Games in Barcelona in 1955. On several occasions, he was appointed Chef de Mission: for the Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo (1956) and the Summer Games in Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964). For these last two Games, he was also President of the Spanish delegation.

Elected a member of the Spanish Olympic Committee in 1956, he was its President from 1967 until 1970. He was elected as an IOC member in 1966. Two years later, the then IOC President, Avery Brundage appointed him Head of Protocol (1968-1975 and 1979-1980). A member of the Executive Board (1970-1978, 1979-1980), he was IOC Vice-President from 1974 to 1978.

Elected to the IOC presidency in the first round of voting on 16 July 1980 at the 83rd Session, he succeeded Lord Killanin on 3 August that year. During 21 years, Juan Antonio Samaranch endeavoured to breathe new life into the Olympic Movement. On 16 July 2001, he handed over the IOC presidency to Jacques Rogge and became Honorary President.

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