MADRID - Juan Antonio Samaranch, who died yesterday aged 89, was a giant of the Olympic movement, heading the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for 21 years - the longest tenure after that of the body's founding father, Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
The Baron was the man who brought the Games into the modern era, heading the IOC from 1896 until 1925, but it was under the tutelage of Samaranch that the movement really took off in the age of increasing global mass media and growing influence of sport.
The man from the Catalan metropolis of Barcelona, who died after being admitted to a Barcelona hospital with heart trouble, had his fingers in several pies to become one of Spain's most influential figures of recent decades.
Born on July 17 1920, into a rich Catalan family which made its fortune from the textile industry, Samaranch, whose last international public appearance was in Copenhagen last October for the awarding of the 2016 Games to Rio, started off in the family business.
But the keen amateur athlete soon turned his hand to international sporting matters.
By 1951 he had organised the first rink hockey world championships in his home city and led the Spanish team to the title.
Such activities brought him to the attention of Spanish military dictator General Francisco Franco, of whom he was a sworn admirer, once dubbing him "one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th Century".
Samaranch was appointed a member of the IOC in 1966. From 1974 to 1978 he was IOC deputy president before securing the top job in 1980. - Sapa-AFP