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Juan Antonio Samaranch

Prince of Asturias Award for Sports 1988

Juan Antonio Samaranch Torelló (Barcelona, Spain, 1920 - 2010), President of the International Olympic Committee from 1980 to 2001. His early efforts were aimed at obtaining the qualifications which would allow him to work in the family business, receiving a wide, liberal education, fitting for the industrious Barcelona of the 1930s. Thus he gained the title of teacher in business studies and later graduated from the Institute for Higher Business Studies.

His name, however, is linked to sports and politics. The first sport for which he showed a preference was roller skate hockey, joining the Real Club Deportivo Español. He later he became the national coach and, in 1951, led the Spanish team to its first victory in a world championship. That same year saw the creation of the Spanish Roller Skate Hockey Federation, with Samaranch being appointed president.

He began his political activities in the Barcelona City Council as the councillor in charge of Sports, a post he held from 1955 to 1962. He was then chairman of the Sports Commission of the Provincial Government and the representative for Catalonia on the National Sports Delegation. In December 1966 he was appointed as national delegate for Physical Education and Sports, a post he was to hold until September 1970.

Elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee in 1966, he joined the executive commission in May 1970 and was appointed as vice-chairman in October 1974. He was also chairman of the Spanish Olympic Committee from 1967 to 1971, vice-chairman of the International Mediterranean Games Committee, president of the Spanish Skating Federation, Mission Head at the Olympics games in Cortina d´Ampezzo (1956), Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964), president of the Barcelona International Nautical Exhibition and vice-president of the International Federation of Nautical Exhibitions.

The chaired the Barcelona Provincial Government from 1973 to 1977, when he was appointed, in recognition of his diplomatic, conciliatory gifts, as Spanish Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Mongolia. Thus, Samaranch was the first Spanish diplomatic representative in Moscow after the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

On the International Olympic Committee, Samaranch continued working unceasingly, until, in 1980, he was elected chairman, at the first vote, by the members of the organization at a meeting in Moscow. As chairman of the IOC, his efforts in favour of independence and solidarity in sport culminated in the Seoul Olympics which were not threatened by the boycott which had clouded the Moscow and Los Angeles games.

The 17th October 1986 constitutes one of the most important dates of his career, when one of his great dreams came true, that of announcing, in the Swiss town of Lausanne, that Barcelona would be the seat of the 1992 Olympic Games.

In May 1987, Juan Antonio Samaranch was appointed as chairman of La Caixa, the Barcelona Savings Bank, after having been a member of the board since 1984, and of its Executive Commission since 1985.

Some months later, he would receive the City of Barcelona Gold Medal, during the ceremonies held to commemorate the first anniversary if the naming of Barcelona as the seat for the 1992 Olympic Games.

A doctor honoris causa of various universities, he holds the Peace Prize awarded by South Korea, and various Grand Crosses. He is a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of St. George.

He was re-elected President of the IOC in 1989, at its meeting in Puerto Rico, and held this post until 2001, when he was appointed Honorary President for Life.

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