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Date 16.04.15 Hit 2508
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Juan Antonio Samaranch, Tribute to Great Icon

Juan Antonio Samaranch, Tribute to Great Icon

*2003 at the Royal Palace with King and Queen and IOC members

Six years have passed since the great icon of the Olympic Movement Juan Antonio Samaranch passed away on 21st April, 2010. With his heritage in mind, to study his days with his successor Jacque Rogge will be quite helpful to students of Olympic movement in the year of Rio de Janeiro Olympics, especially, when world of sport is fuming with corruption and doping scandals.

President Juan Antonio Samaranch telephoned me to invite me to a Luncheon at 14:00 hrs on May 17 at Via Beneto Restaurant in Barcelona with an invitation to a New hotel but it never took place due to his sudden death. I was to have a luncheon with Thomas Bach in Frankfurt on my way back but I had to cancel. We thought he would live a few more years and look after progress of his ideals which he pursued all his life.

Michael Payne, a brilliant IOC Marketing Director under Samaranch stated in his book “Olympic turn around” that Samaranch saved IOC from brinks of financial bankruptcy. Samaranch restored Modern Olympics and saved IOC from brinks of financial bankruptcy, and thus built a Golden Era of IOC. For Korea, he helped Seoul Olympics to a great success, after 12 years of boycott by the West and East, and helped Taekwondo to become an Olympic sport, and supported 2002 Japan-Korea FIFA World Cup. He helped South and North Korean team to March together at the Opening of Sydney Olympics amidst standing ovation of the whole stadium. I had low days with him sometimes. At 2001 Moscow IOC Session, Samaranch supported Rogge for IOC Presidency as he clearly stated in Japan’s Yomiuri Newspaper interview in January 2010. All other candidates in Moscow wished he would stay neutral for fair chance for all. Instead, very strange election rules were formulated through Judge Keva Mbaye and no candidate was allowed to invite or visit IOC members or given floor to speak on their policy programs. Rogge under coattail of Samaranch, exploited his position as ENOC President. Ethic commission of Judge Mbaye was fully exploited. His interference in the election was too apparent and aggressive. His excessive ambition lead to Salt Lake scandal. And yet, modern history of IOC could be divided into pre and post Samaranch Era. His achievement was great. We know Jacque Rogge in his own way also tried hard but it looks very difficult to compare with Samaranch, as he left many problems behind. The world of sport today is fuming with financial scandals and doping problems.

Now that Samaranch is gone, many students of Olympic movement would like to study two previous Presidents, Incumbent IOC. President Thomas Bach who brilliantly started IOC Presidency called for unity in diversity, upholding Olympic ideals for youth of the world. He called IOC session in December 2013 to deal with outstanding issues to meet 21st century challenges and requirement. He is vigorously pushing through 2030. It could be informative to those who research or engage in Olympic related affairs. After death of Samaranch, a prominent English reporter commented “Samaranch Era is a golden era” and the following 12 years can be called “Era without history”.

Samaranch is an experienced politician, economist, diplomat, sports administrator and sportsman. He was Governor of Cataluna, Head of a political party, President of Spanish Olympic committee, Minister of Sports, Ambassador to Soviet Union, a Bank chairman of CAIXA. He is Marquise. He is very experienced in many fields. He is quite well-to–do and understands art and culture. He was married to a Bibis, a real graceful first lady.

 Rogge is a professional orthopedist in Belgium, and participated in Olympics as Yachting athlete. He served as President of Belgium NOC once, He lost election for the 2nd try to Van den Eede. He was not eligible for ENOC Presidency but Samaranch swayed the rules to elect Rogge. Samaranch at the time said Minister from Eastern Europe will not be efficient and is not desirable for the job. People say Samaranch has warm heart while Rogge is rather cool. How many IOC members and their families Samaranch helped? Samaranch cared for welfare of members as well as their family. Rogge has yet to learn compassion for those who fail, and open mind of true wisdom, and humble and gentle in victory like Samaranch. Samaranch looked after Mandela after his release and even invited him to Barcelona Olympics. It lead to participation of South Africa in Universal Olympic movement. 

The same English reporter said Rogge is fortified and limited by his professional exactitude, typically of a medical man, and medical profession necessarily believes that it is correct. It seems to tell Rogge’s caliber and personality. Insiders say Samaranch did his best to build up Rogge for 3 years before Moscow Session.

Samaranch always has denied but in spring of 2010, he stated clearly in his interview with Japan’s Yomiuri Newspaper that he had supported Rogge. However, Rogge was heard saying he could have been elected without Samaranch’s help. But many insiders do not think so. How many important jobs and tools did Samaranch give to Rogge? Rogge joined EB in 1998 but never experienced even IOC Vice Presidency or chair of an important standing commission.

Starting from Seoul Olympics, Samaranch made boycotts are no longer a serious threat. Cities are eagerly bidding to play host to the games. Corporations are shelling out 100 million dollars apiece to become official sponsors; athletes can build lucrative careers as professionals; and women are involved in larger numbers than ever as administrators and participants. Almost equal numbers of women participate in Olympics. In Sydney, already 199 countries participated compared with 80 at the 1980 summer games in Moscow. In London, 203 countries participated and Women competed in all sports.


*From the left Thomas Bach, Un-yong KIM, Jacque Rogge

With the exception of Pierre de Couvertin, French founder of modern Olympics in 1896, Samaranch has been the most significant leader in modern Olympic history. Said John MacAloon, an Olympic historian and professor at the University of Chicago. “The Greatest single” accomplishment has been a kind of political maturity, an ability to deal with political elites, heads of states, industrial elites. That was something the movement never really had. Sydney game alone had 3.9 billion people worldwide access to TV. Samaranch also opened IOC to the world. It is no more closed door social club. His problem was doping but finally established WADA putting Dick Pound as its head. Now Craig Reedie is at its helm.
Samaranch had a strong cabinet, composed of De Franz, Gosper, Pound, KIM, Mbaye, He, Bach, Hodler, Ericsson, Rogge, Smirnov, Carrard, Zweifel, Payne, Felli, Fonseca, Schmitt, Nebiolo, Mario Vasquez Rana, Beiz, Tröger, Siperco, Kumar, Merode.

Samaranch also had to pay a price. Too often changes of age limit of IOC members, and 21 years of long tenure of IOC presidency brought Salt Lake City scandal although trials were finally dropped. Nowadays, professional sports such as football, baseball have grown almost equal to Olympics, and many minor sports are also growing fast, in status, number of countries and in finance.

As to a question of why Samaranch has chosen Rogge as his successor, a reporter said “maybe Samaranch wanted a period of tranquility now that he had laid the foundation.” Rogge tried to differentiate from Samaranch like anybody else in history. ” First Olympics which Rogge presided was 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games. Problem lasted a week with decision of Figure skating pair between Russia and Canada. Situation aggravated with disqualification of Russian Nordic medalist Lazutina. Russian President Putin asserted that Salt Lake Games was a failure under administrative bias and commercialism of IOC. Russian NOC threatened to withdraw and boycott Athens Games. Rogge quickly moved to share gold medals between Russian and French, and restored two Silver medals for Luzutina, although Rogge admitted awarding duplicate gold medals had been wrong in an interview with New York Times a year later.
At the same time, public in Korea was fuming over loss of a short track gold medal which went to American athlete. Korea Olympic Committee released a statement upon request of Rogge and as prepared by IOC that it would not boycott, which further aggravated public sentiment in Korea but saved Salt Lake games as Rogge lated complimented in Lausanne.
He also needed to leave heritage behind. Youth Olympic maybe is the one. It is understood IOC has subsidized 30 million dollars. Singapore’s Ser Miang NG successfully organized 1st youth Olympics but Singapore government had to spend much money. Actually, Samaranch is the one who initiated idea of Youth Olympics after Atlanta Olympics in 1996 but it had to stop its plans after Salt Lake scandal erupted. Youth Olympic may be what Rogge tried to re-orient Olympic ideals for education of youth. Samaranch called Lord Killanin every week. Rogge never called Samaranch or consulted, It is quite a contrast.

Today, leadership of FIFA and IAAF are under judicial investigation. Many of them are arrested or indicted, and many national federations are also suspected. Salt Lake scandal involved IOC members for entertainment and small gifts, never involved in financial deals. Still, Samaranch pushed though reforms. Trials based on investigations of FBI supported by reports of IOC Ad hoc Committee(Pound, Rogge, Schmitt, Mbaye) were dropped after 3 year. No one was penalized. 

No one will deny Rogge has maintained the empire Samaranch has built up in a fair shape. Samaranch always emphasized solidarity and friendship among Olympic family. Is it still so? History will tell. Samaranch left behind financial Empire and solidarity of Olympic family. Rogge left division, drug issue as in case of UCI, IAAF, FIFA, bribery, cheating, match fixing. Today, it even spread from FIFA, IAAF to some national federations. 

 Samaranch brought all three pillars of Olympic movement under one roof. What happened to GAISF according to David Miller, Official Olympic historian and former London Times Correspondent in his Column in the Sports Intern. “GAISF prospered as a valuable annual talking-shop for all IFs, Olympic and wannabees, under the presidency of South Korean UnYong Kim. Then came ambitious Hein Verbruggen from cycling, who, under the pacific eye of President Jacques Rogge, magnified commercial activity within re-title Sport Accord: the annual assembly renamed ‘Convention’, at which you paid a substantial fee for even sneezing.” 

 They also differ in their relationships to Korea. Samaranch had to work hard with Korea divided, and still developing, to organize one of the most successful Olympic Games after 12 years of boycott by the East and West. He visited Korea more than 30 times, and helped Korea to win 2002 Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup and 2002 Busan Asian Games. Everybody knows that it would have been impossible for Taekwondo to become Olympic sport without Samaranch’s guidance and support. He supported North & South Korean delegation to march jointly at Opening of Sydney Olympics after 50 years of separation by two Koreas. Samsung’s Lee Kun-Hee was cooped as IOC member. Samsung provides 100 million dollars of official sponsorship money every 4 years. And yet, Korean people didn’t listen to Samaranch’s advice in Prague in 2003 that it would be difficult to win over Vancouver at that time. Therefore Pyeongchang should try for good 2nd place to surely win 4 years later in Guatemala IOC session. Samaranch said if Un Yong KIM was later to be elected to IOC Vice President again, he would be more active, But Pyeongchang didn’t listen and had to try for three times. How much resources were spent. 2005 UN Human Right Commission cited Korean IOC Vice President was made a scapegoat for its defeat to Vancouver and is an outstanding human right case. IOC members are bound to collide with local law and authorities as they perform their duties, and IOC must protect their members instead of exploiting adversely or taking laissez-faire attitude.

On the other hand, Rogge came to Korea as Chef de mission during 1988 Seoul Olympics; 1999 Seoul IOC Session, 2003 Taegu Universiade Game, 2002 Busan Asian Games and 2005 Seoul ANOC meeting. Rogge and his wife came to Korea in November 2004 to privately visit Samsung Leeum : Art Gallery which was later target of judiciary investigation.

Rogge asked KOC to blackout their visit. They made no activities and met no one. Why? Nobody knows the purpose of visit to Samsung Art Gallery. He was invited to Korea once more as guest of Blue House at request of KOC President Kim Jung-Kil. Blue House asked cooption of KIM as IOC member after dinner and presentation of gift. Rogge answered he couldn’t. To the contrary, Samaranch’s answer to then President Kim Young-Sam (implying Lee Kun-Hee) was cordial that he would study and let it be known. Samaranch did his best to protect his members although he could not interfere; quite a contrast with Rogge who would exploit Ethics Commission to his needs or stay away under pretext of zero tolerance. Rogge received Hon. Doctor degree from Kyunghee University (related to IOC Aspirant Cho Joung-Won of WTF) at outskirt of Seoul. Samaranch received one from Seoul National University after Seoul Olympics for his dedication and contribution to success of Seoul Olympics.

Samaranch built Olympic Museum Single-handedly. It is a big asset to maintain Olympic Heritage and for education of Youth. It will be proper for Koreans to pay homage to Samaranch for what he has achieved for Olympic movement and build Samaranch IOC Museum and Center.


*2001 with Executive Members - IOC Headquaters in Laussane

                                                                    Dr.UnYong KIM
IOC Vice President(R)
Founding President of World Taekwondo Federation & Kukkiwon
Hon President of Korea Taekwondo Association

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