Oceania remembers the late IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Oceania Association of National Olympic Committees was deeply saddened
to learn of the death of Honorary President Juan Antonio Samaranch in
Barcelona yesterday. President Samaranch had suffered a number of illnesses
since his retirement from the IOC in 2001 but despite these setbacks,
continued to attend Olympic Games and Sports Meetings around the world.

I last saw him at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in February. After
exchanging greetings, as always, his next comment was "..and how's Oceania".

President Samaranch first travelled through the Oceania region in 1985 with
Australian IOC Member Phil Coles and former ONOC Development Manager Brian
Wightman.  He wanted to visit as many NOCs and potential members in a week's
tour.  He travelled from Papua New Guinea to Solomon Islands, Vanuatu (after
a cyclone), Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands and Tahiti and soon got to
appreciate the difficulties in travelling between Pacific Islands. Following
this visit he ensured that Oceania got a proportionately higher allocation
of Olympic Solidarity funds than other continents and always encouraged the
innovative use of these development funds for the benefit of the athletes
and their support systems.

After Sydney won the right to host the 2000 Olympic Games in 1993, he tried
to attend the Annual General meetings of ONOC and on his retirement in 2001
had personally visited all of the countries in the region.

During this period he grew closer to his Olympic colleagues in Oceania,
appreciating the informality of the region but recognising the hard work
being put into the development of sports in all member countries. In 1999 he
took the unprecedented step of inviting ONOC to hold its Annual General
Assembly in Lausanne.

President Samaranch encouraged the growth of the Olympic movement in Oceania
and pushed us to ensure all countries that were eligible for membership of
the IOC were assisted to become members as soon as possible.  He was a
strong advocate for the total support of athletes and their development, the
increasing involvement of women in all levels of sports and provided the
opportunity through Olympic Solidarity to deliver within our countries the
values of the Olympic movement

He leaves a huge legacy in the region for the Olympic Movement in which he
personally contributed so much.  He was a mentor and an inspiring leader to
many of us currently involved in sports administration in the region, as he
influenced the direction of our careers and our involvement in sport in the
growth of the Olympic movement in Oceania in the 30 years of ONOC's
existence.

We will miss him and the special relationship he developed with his
colleagues in the region.

Much will be written about his achievements and legacy to the world of sport
which we were all privileged to be a part of since the 1980's.
We will remember him for those special Pacific moments we shared with him
over the years - the memory of President Juan Antonio Samaranch joining his
Pacific colleagues in Palau wearing a T shirt, shorts and flip flops to talk
about sport in the region...

ONOC has expressed its deepest sympathy to Juan Antonio Samaranchıs family
and to the International Olympic Committee.

Dr Robin Mitchell
President ONOC & IOC Member in Fiji
Oceania National Olympic Committees

PHOTO: from IOC website www.olympic.org