Juan Antonio Samaranch

Biographical information

Full nameJuan Antonio•Samaranch Torrelo
Used nameJuan Antonio•Samaranch
Born17 July 1920 in Barcelona, Barcelona (ESP)
Died21 April 2010 in Barcelona, Barcelona (ESP)
NOC Spain


Juan Antonio Samaranch Torrelo, the Marquis de Samaranch, was elected as the 7th President of the IOC in 1980, succeeding Lord Killanin. After the autocratic reign of Brundage, and the Presidency of Killanin, who some felt lacked the diplomatic skills to solve the many political problems facing the IOC, Samaranch, a career diplomat, seemed the ideal choice as President.

Juan Antonio Samaranch Torrelo was born in Barcelona on 17 July 1920, the son of Francisco Samaranch Castro, a textile manufacturer, and Juana Torrelo Malhevy. He received his education at business schools and the German College before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

In 1940, Samaranch began work in the family business, Samaranch, S.A, as a business appraiser. 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 Federation of Roller Hockey. In 1950, he joined the executive council of the international federation.

By 1954, Samaranch had become vice-president of the International Federation of Roller Hockey, President of the Spanish Roller Hockey Federation, and a Barcelona city councilman. In 1955, he became a provincial deputy and also vice-president of the organizing committee for the second Mediterranean Games. In 1956, he was appointed to the Spanish Olympic Committee and headed the Spanish team to the Winter Games, held that year in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, as the chef de mission.

Between 1960 and 1975, Samaranch’s influence increased in both the Olympic Movement and Spanish politics. He was chef de mission to the Spanish team at the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games. 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 chef de protocol for the IOC. It was a prelude to his being elected to the Executive Board, which first occurred in 1970. In 1974 he was elected a Vice-President of the IOC.

While his position in the world of sports administration improved, Samaranch continued to be active in the Barcelona, Catalan, and Spanish business and political worlds. In the 1960s he served on the boards of several banks and real estate firms. In 1968, he sold the family business, making him quite wealthy, although he remained on the board. In 1973 he was elected president of the deputation of Barcelona, a significant Catalan political appointment, and one which reported to the Franco regime, for which Samaranch was later criticized.

In 1977, Samaranch was named the Spanish Ambassador to the Soviet Union. While living in Moscow, he assisted the Soviets with the plans and preparations for the 1980 Olympic Games. His diplomatic skills in early 1980 in attempting to forestall the US-led boycott earned him favor with the Soviets, and they supported his campaign to become IOC President. He was elected the 7th IOC President in 1980, winning over Willi Daume of the German Federal Republic, James Worrall of Canada, Lance Cross of New Zealand, and Marc Hodler of Switzerland.

As President of the IOC, Samaranch’s diplomatic skills were invaluable, especially in the early years of his presidency. An itinerant President, he visited almost all of the 199 IOC member nations personally. His diplomacy was never tested more than in 1984 when the Soviet Union announced a boycott of retribution against the United States for the 1984 Olympic Games. Samaranch was not able to prevent the boycott.

However, in 1988, when Seoul, Korea was chosen to host the Olympic Games, Samaranch worked furiously to prevent another large-scale boycott of a nation that was not recognized by many Communist countries. In this matter, he was largely successful, as only six nations did not attend the 1988 Olympic Games. Samaranch also negotiated almost continually with the North Koreans in an effort to have them co-host several events during the 1988 Olympics, although this never came to pass and North Korea did not attend the Olympics.

Likely the most significant aspect of Samaranch’s presidency was his work with the South African question. After years of apartheid ended in 1991, Samaranch worked quickly to see that the South African Olympic Committee was re-admitted to the IOC and South Africans again competed at the Olympic Games in 1992 at 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 eliminated from the Olympic Charter and professionals have now competed at the Olympics in almost all sports in which true professionals exist. To most people this has been a positive, but there are critics who wish that the Olympics would remain simon-pure and perhaps even return to the ways of Brundage with only lily-white amateurs allowed.

Samaranch made the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games a very profitable venture. Prior to his presidency, the IOC was on the verge of bankruptcy several times. But in 1984, Peter Ueberroth of the United States was chairman of the Los Angeles Olympic Games and he ran the Games in an American capitalistic, entrepreneurial fashion. Although reviled by many for his methods, the 1984 Olympic Games did make a profit of over $220 million dollars (US). The IOC and Samaranch took notice.

Led by his able lieutenant and financial wizard, Canadian IOC member Dick Pound, Samaranch began the marketing of the Olympic Games, the Olympic Movement, and the Olympic name and symbols. Adding a marketing program, called The Olympic Programme (TOP) (later The Olympic Partners), to increased moneys realized by television income, the IOC became profitable beyond its expectations.

It appeared that Samaranch would leave office in 1997 but the IOC changed its rules on age limits for members that allowed him to remain in office, and he elected to do so, which left him in office in 1999. In that year Samaranch presided over one of the worst problems in IOC history, when the Olympic Bribery Scandal hit, revealing that many of the recent bid committees had been buying votes by giving significant gifts to many IOC Members.

A huge scandal ensued, as the world’s press descended like vultures on the supposedly pure Olympic Movement. Investigations were begun on the IOC level, in Utah investigating the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter bid, by the United States Olympic Committee, by the United States Congress, and by the American FBI. Further investigations of earlier bid committees also were established. Much of what was found did not reflect well and there were calls for him to step down as President, as the scandals had occurred on his watch. The first victims of the scandal were several IOC members who were removed.

Samaranch reacted positively by conducting a thorough IOC investigation, led by Pound, and forming 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 into the next century, so that a repetition of the Olympic Scandal would not occur again

Samaranch’s term as IOC President ended at the IOC Session in July 2001, when he was succeeded by Jacques Rogge. Juan Antonio Samaranch returned to his native Barcelona, living there until his death on 21 April 2010.

Organization roles

Role Organization Tenure NOC As
Member International Olympic Committee 1966—2001 ESP Juan Antonio Samaranch
President Comité Olímpico Español 1967—1970 ESP Juan Antonio Samaranch
Executive Board Member International Olympic Committee 1968—1974 ESP Juan Antonio Samaranch
3rd Vice-President International Olympic Committee 1974—1975 ESP Juan Antonio Samaranch
2nd Vice-President International Olympic Committee 1975—1976 ESP Juan Antonio Samaranch
1st Vice-President International Olympic Committee 1976—1978 ESP Juan Antonio Samaranch
Executive Board Member International Olympic Committee 1979—1980 ESP Juan Antonio Samaranch
President International Olympic Committee 1980—2001 ESP Juan Antonio Samaranch
Honorary President for Life International Olympic Committee 2001—2010 ESP Juan Antonio Samaranch

Olympic family relations

Special Notes