The International Triathlon Union was deeply saddened to learn today of the death of Juan Antonio Samaranch, age 89. He was widely credited with renewing and fundamentally changing the landscape of the Olympic Movement, and was instrumental in triathlon’s entry to the Olympic Games.
“Today is a very sad day for me personally and for all the triathlon family,” said ITU President and IOC Member Marisol Casado. “Mr. Samaranch was instrumental in our sport’s growth and its entry into the Olympic movement. He was a great leader and visionary and his exceptional passion, foresight and energy were an inspiration to us all. ITU would like to extend its deepest sympathy to Juan Antonio Samaranch’s family.”
Following an illustrious career as the Spanish Government Secretary for Sport and President of the National Olympic Committee, Mr. Samaranch was elected as IOC President at the 83rd IOC Session in Moscow in the summer of 1980. He held the position for 21 years.
A hugely energetic man, he was responsible for the new IOC headquarters building in Vidy, Switzerland and for inaugurating The Olympic Museum in Lausanne. He will also be remembered for championing the representation of women in the IOC, overseeing the entry of the first women members in the 1980s. He was likewise responsible for setting up the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and for involving the athletes themselves in the decision-making of the IOC by creating the IOC Athletes’ Commission.
It was Honorary President Samaranch, back in 1988, who first called Les McDonald and asked him to front the movement to lobby for triathlon’s appearance in the Olympic Games, and ultimately saw the sport adopted into the Olympic movement at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
It was during a visit to the USA when then IOC President Samaranch first watched a triathlon event, which was being shown on television in his hotel room. The dynamic combination of swimming, cycling and running caught the Spaniard’s attention and he asked his colleagues to find out who was leading the development of the fledgling sport. At a time when the Olympic Games was looking to attract a new generation of enthusiasts and television coverage, triathlon’s fresh and exciting image had a great appeal for broadcasters and young people looking to discover new activities outside of more traditional sports.
“President Samaranch`s vision of reforming the Olympic movement was very timely for the young sport of triathlon in the early 80’s,” said Honorary ITU President Les McDonald. “The first time he saw a triathlon he instantly recognised its Olympic qualities. Personally he was the most significant person of my life. He provided the pathway for ITU follow. We are all deeply saddened by his passing.”