SBD/Issue 152/Sports Industrialists

Former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch Passes Away At 89

Rogge (r) Credits Samaranch For
Building Up Olympics In Modern Era

Former IOC President JUAN ANTONIO SAMARANCH died this morning in a Barcelona hospital at the age of 89. Samaranch led the IOC from '80-'01, and he was responsible for the new IOC HQs and The Olympic Museum, both in Switzerland. Only PIERRE DE COUBERTIN, who held the post from 1896-1925, held the position for longer than Samaranch's 21 years. 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." Rogge added, "We have lost a great man, a mentor and a friend who dedicated his long and fulfilled life to Olympism." NBC Sports & Olympics Chair DICK EBERSOL: "He was a towering figure in the world of sport and a diplomat of consummate skill who navigated through turmoil to reunite the Olympic Movement" (THE DAILY).

COMMERCIALIZING THE GAMES: The BBC notes Samaranch was "widely regarded as the most powerful man in sport" during his tenure, as he "oversaw the commercialisation of the Olympics during the 1980s and 1990s and established the Games as a world force." BBC Radio's GORDON FARQUHAR said, "During his tenure, Samaranch helped revitalise the economic fortunes of the IOC through global sponsorship deals and marketing of TV rights. Professional athletes were fully embraced, finally ending the tradition of amateurism at the games" (BBC.co.uk, 4/21). The AP's Wilson & Logothetis note when Samaranch became IOC President in '80, the organization was "virtually bankrupt and the Olympics were battered by boycotts, terrorism and financial troubles." When he left in '01, the IOC's coffers were "bulging from billions of dollars in commercial revenues, the boycott era was over, and the games were firmly established as the world's favorite sports festival." Canadian IOC member DICK POUND: "He took a very badly fragmented, disorganized and impecunious organization and built it into a universal, united and financially and politically independent organization that has credibility, not only in the world of sport, but also in political circles. That's an enormous achievement to accomplish in 20 years" (AP, 4/21). ABC's Juju Chang noted Samaranch led the IOC during a "time of unprecedented change for the Olympic movement" ("GMA," ABC, 4/21).

IMPROVED THE FINANCIAL HEALTH: AROUND THE RINGS' Hula & Rosen write Samaranch 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" (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 4/21). Author DAVID WALLECHINSKY said Samaranch "got the IOC on a fine financial footing," as he "figured out how to make the whole thing profitable." NPR's Howard Berkes writes Samaranch "tapped the corporate model" that PETER UEBERROTH created for the '84 L.A. Games, which "increased the Olympics' value." Samaranch then was "able to start bidding wars among TV networks for the exclusive right to broadcast the Games," and the Olympics "became a billion-dollar brand" (NPR.org, 4/21). In Chicago, Philip Hersh writes Samaranch's "commercialization and professionalization of the Olympics ... was a double-edged sword." Hersh: "To some it made the Olympics just another big-money sporting event. To others, it opened doors in places with no money at all" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 4/21).

OVERCOMING SCANDAL: The BBC's James Pearce writes no individual "commanded greater respect within the IOC" than Samaranch, and the "endearment is perhaps surprising considering that Samaranch had led the IOC through its greatest crisis," the scandal around the '02 Salt Lake City Games. The Salt Lake City scandal "rocked the whole Olympic movement," and by the time Samaranch stepped down in '01, it was "inevitable that his reputation had been tainted." Still, there is a "genuine belief within the Olympic movement that the modern Olympics simply wouldn't be the same if it hadn't been for Samaranch" (BBC.co.uk, 4/21). In London, Rick Broadbent writes Samaranch "survived" the scandal, which was "by no means the first Olympic scandal, but it strained the credulity of some to believe he was unaware of the corruption within his committee" (TIMESONLINE.co.uk, 4/21).

Olympic Movement Prospered
Under Samaranch's Tenure
POWER BROKER: UNIVERSAL SPORTS' Alan Abrahamson writes, "Of this let there be no doubt: Samaranch ... was the savviest figure in international sports in the latter half of the 20th century. As simple as it might sound, he understood how to lead. Never did a matter come to the floor of an IOC session ... unless Samaranch knew beforehand how the votes would turn. Moreover, he knew how to orchestrate the theater and drama that make for recurring IOC themes" (UNIVERSALSPORTS.com, 4/21). The AP's Wilson & Logothetis write Samaranch was a "skilled and sometimes ruthless operator who could forge consensus in the often fractious Olympic movement and push IOC members to deliver exactly what he wanted" (AP, 4/21). In London, Jacquelin Magnay writes Samaranch's "undoubted diplomatic skill to manipulate people and circumstances ... enabled the Olympics to not only survive, but prosper." Samaranch throughout his tenure "ruled the IOC with none-too-subtle persuasion." Magnay: "What he wanted he got, and while that was an effective way of controlling the IOC members, his demands for royal-like status were criticised heavily in the media" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 4/21). The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Hersh writes Samaranch "left a complex and controversial legacy," as he "turned his years as IOC head into an imperial presidency featuring an often imperious president." Samaranch "governed essentially by executive fiat, never letting an issue reach a vote without knowing he would easily win" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 4/21).

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