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Samaranch given Lausanne honour as mandate draws to close

Juan Antonio Samaranch receives the key to the city of Lausanne from the mayor, Jean-Jacques Schilt (left) Keystone

Two months before he steps down as the figurehead of world sport, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Juan Antonio Samaranch, has been honoured by the city of Lausanne.

This content was published on May 18, 2001 - 10:06

At a ceremony on Thursday evening, Samaranch was awarded the Keys to the Olympic Capital in recognition of his role in giving Lausanne its present sporting and international influence.

"With this symbolic gesture, the Municipality wanted to say to the IOC president that he will always be welcome in this city, with which he has established privileged links," the city government said in a statement.

During the ceremony, the head of the city government, Jean-Jacques Schilt, recalled how, in 1993, Samaranch played the key role in establishing Lausanne as the capital of the Olympic movement.

Samaranch was also the driving force behind the creation in the same year of the Olympic Museum, which is now the second most visited museum in Switzerland.

"Thank you for all you have brought to Lausanne, and the way in which you have done it," Schilt said. The presence of the IOC has prompted a large number of sporting federations to establish their headquarters in the city. It has also attracted a large number of tourists and boosted Lausanne's economy.

However, the awarding of the keys of the city to Samaranch created a great deal of controversy within the city's political establishment. Centre-right parties believed the IOC chief deserved to get Lausanne's highest civic award, the Citizen of Honour, having done more than any other individual to put the city on the map.

But the majority centre-left were unhappy about Samaranch's past. During the fascist Franco regime, which ended in 1975, Samaranch was responsible for physical education and sport in Catalonia, and later for the whole of Spain. He also sat in the Spanish national parliament.

Samaranch is due to step down as IOC chief during the organisation's session in Moscow in July.

Samaranch's award came on the day that it emerged that he had put forward his son, also called Juan Antonio, for IOC membership.

Another of the seven candidates is the former Swiss sports minister and current UN special representative for sport and peace, Adolf Ogi.

by Roy Probert

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