- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Goodbye Juan. Hello Juanito.

The Juan Antonio Samaranch presidency officially ended yesterday when the International Olympic Committee elected Jacques Rogge, a Belgian surgeon and Olympic sailor, as its new president in the second round of voting.

"Thank you for having allowed me to serve the Olympic movement," Samaranch told IOC members before the vote. "Goodbye and hasta la vista."

He should have said, "I'll be back."

When you're Juan Antonio Samaranch and you've presided over the greatest scandal-ridden growth in the history of the Olympics, you never really have to say goodbye.

It turns out that "his excellency" will still be around, with a new title bestowed upon him by IOC members who can't bear to see the old man leave. His new title? "Honorary President for Life."

I think that was the title that Samaranch's old boss, General Francisco Franco, had in Spain, so the title must carry a little extra meaning for his excellency a special bond between fascists.

The new title gives Samaranch a chance to remain an official part of the Olympic orgy and skirt around the rule that dictates he can't serve as IOC president past the age of 75. Rogge owes his election to Samaranch's support, and you can be sure the newly appointed "honorary president for life" will still wield some power within the Olympic family.

That's what Olympic supporters like to call it the family. You know of any other organization that refers to itself in the same way?

Samaranch's new title also allows him to share another special bond with someone near and dear to him his son, Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. Known as "Juanito," the younger Samaranch was elected as a member of the IOC, the first time that a president's son has been elected to the IOC. And it wasn't even close, a 71-27 vote.

You might say that this is nepotism and you'd be right. But on the scale of corruption with the IOC, this seems like jaywalking.

Rogge will be faced with the challenge of changing the image of the IOC as an arrogant, bribe-taking bunch of criminals. He seems suited for the job, free of the scandal of the Salt Lake City games that implicated so many IOC members including Rogge's main competitor, Kim Un-yong of South Korea.

Kim received what was called a severe warning two years ago as a result of the investigation into the Salt Lake City bid scandal after his son was accused of getting a phony job paid for by Salt Lake City bid officials. Kim also was accused, in the days leading up to the presidential vote, of offering minimum annual payments of $50,000 to IOC delegates for expenses in their home countries while doing IOC work.

He denied any such offer and said after Rogge was elected that "it was not a race with fair play."

He must have longed for the old days, when bribery was considered fair play.

And this was the candidate that the U.S. Olympic Committee was pulling for. USOC president Sandy Baldwin told The Washington Post last week that Kim "is one of the brightest people I've ever met. He understands sport extremely well… . I think Dr. Kim is a very practical man."

Rogge, on the other hand, has these strange notions that reforms were necessary, that commercialism has hurt the Olympic image and that the Games have grown to be too big and need to be down-sized. So you can see why the USOC wouldn't be backing him.

Officially, the USOC supported the American candidate for IOC president. Yes, there was an American candidate, but she disappeared quickly in the first round of voting.

IOC member Anita DeFrantz received nine votes in the first round. She told reporters that she "had the same credentials or better than any of the candidates."

Here are some of Anita DeFrantz's credentials: She was a member of the American women's rowing team that won a bronze medal in Montreal in 1976. Four years later, she was a member of the U.S. Olympic team that couldn't go to Moscow due to President Carter's decision to boycott the Games because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

What was DeFrantz's response? She sued her government.

I'll bet she's a big fan of Beijing.

If Anita DeFrantz ever has a title bestowed on her, it could be "honorary buffoon for life," based on her pathetic appearance two years ago before a Senate committee investigating Olympic corruption, when she couldn't answer the simplest of questions, such as how IOC funds were used.

No matter. The man who does know such things is still around, and now it's a father and son act Big Excellency and Little Excellency.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide