Advances in Physical Education 23
2011. Vol.1, No.2, 23-26
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ape.2011.12005
Evaluation on Samaranch’s Innovations for Olympic Development
Jiahao Hu
English Department, Wuhan Institute of Physical Education, Wuhan, China.
Received September 1st, 2011; revised October 10th, 2011; accepted October 15th, 2011.
Under certain political and economic background Samaranch implemented a series of innovations for Olympic
development. His reform focuses on Olympic commercialization, sport professionalization and women sport,
which brings about both active and passive results. The essay demonstrates Samaranch’s great contributions to-
wards world Olympic movement. On the other hand it points out the negative results of Samaranch’s reforma-
tion with the intention to warn the people in the future.
Keywords: Samaranch, Innovation, Olymp i c D ev e l opment, Evaluation
Juan Antonio Samaranch, the most successful chairman of
the International Olympic Committee (IOC) left us for ever.
During his tenure, the Olympic movement has experienced a
series of economic and political crises. With his super-wisdom,
he firmly innovated and enriched the meaning of Olympic
movement. The essay focuses on the historical development of
his innovations, reflecting his outstanding contributions and
influences on the modern Olympics in post-Samaranch era.
Background of Samaranch’s Innovations
After Samaranch was elected as IOC President in 1980, IOC
faced the plight for survival and development. From political
point of view, capitalism and socialism, two major political
forces at that time, existed in a cold war. U.S.A. boycotted
Moscow Olympics together with other 65 capitalist countries,
including his motherland, Spain. Spanish athletes even did not
play national flag at the opening ceremony. Moscow Olympics
endured a disastrous boycott, putting the largest investment
with the smallest reward. Coincidentally, Los Angeles Olym-
pics were also boycotted by socialist countries led by the Soviet
Union. Socialist camp even sought to persuade UNESCO to
take its place to exercise all the functions of IOC.IOC was on
the verge of disintegration. From economic poit of view, IOC
could hardly protect itself, let alone assist member states to
promote universal Olympic movement.At that time IOC owned
working capital of less than $20 million and fixed assets worth
of $2,000,000. In addition, the construction of the Montreal
Olympic Stadium caused huge debts up to $10 billion. The
example made other cities reluctant to host the Olympics. In
1980 and in 1984 only the United States contested to bid for
winter Olympics and summer Olympics. After Los Angeles
won the contest, the government was not willing to provide any
financial assistance because local taxpayers outcried against
wasting the valuable capital for the Olympics. In such a poor
economic background, the prospect of modern Olympics was
colorless and bleak. Some people even suspected that IOC only
owned a dead end ( Zhou A-bao, 2006).
Samaranch’s Innovation
In front of the political and economical difficulties, Samar-
anch accepted the challenge. He had two roads to choose. One
road is to maintain the status doing nothing and waiting to die.
The other road is to innovate for prosperity. With great en-
couragement Samaranch chose the latter and actively seeked for
effective solutions to the above problems.
Innovation on Relationship Improveme nt bet wee n
IOC and Political Organizations
At birth, Coubertin, the founder of the Olympic movement,
made the principle to separate sports from politics. Samaranch
had worked for a long time in political field and formed a
strong passion towards politics. The past political career told
him that politics accompanied the whole Olympic movement all
the time. What interested sport field also interested politicians.
Those who engaged in sports could not escape political influ-
ence. His special understanding about politics helped him to
take a quite different view from Coubertin. In order to improve
the relations between IOC and political organizations for the
flourishment of modern Olympics, Samaranch actively strived
for the support from all national governments, based on the
IOC independence. First of all, he made face- to- face dialogues
with the political leaders from different countries, deepening
the mutual understanding and cooperation. The wide commu-
nications helped him to solve the conflict still in the embryonic
stage. Before taking any actions, political leaders at least made
the first consultation with IOC to find a solution satisfactory to
both sides. U.S. President Jimmy Carter implemented the po-
litical boycott against Moscow Olympics while socialist coun-
tries carried out the passive resistance against Los Angeles
Olympics. Samaranch tried every means to meditate between
the two sides. On a visit to the United States, he persuaded
Reagan, President of the United States, to invite the general
secretary of the Soviet Union to participate the opening cere-
mony of Los Angeles Olympics. The plan didn't succeed, but
such socialist country as China, Romania and Yugoslavia ac-
tively participated in the game. Across the world, 140 delega-
tions and 6797 athletes attended, creating the modern Olympic
record with the largest number of participants (Xiong Douying,
Additionally, Samaranch established friendly relationship
with the United Nations (UN) to improve IOC international
image. For many years, UN attached great importance to IOC
which benefited quite a lot from kofi Annan’s supports. With
Samaranch’s efforts, UN approved the Olympic truce idea to
J.-H. HU
call for every opposite party to stop conflict during the Olym-
pics. Unanimously UN 180 members agreed on the Olympic
truce proposal to build a better world through sports activities
and the Olympic spirit of peace. Having cooperated harmoni-
ousely with UN, IOC gradually went out of crisis and enhanced
the vitality step by step. The Olympic spirit continuously car-
ried forward across the whole world (Ren Hai, 2007).
Innovation on the Olympic Commercialization
World Olympics had takn government offer for its main fi-
nancial source all the time. But this pattern evolved into folk
Olympics in the United States. Los Angeles Olympics was hard
to collect enough money. Organizing committee creatively got
funds through agreement with sponsors from big enterprises.
They sold the television rights by open tender and earned more
than $2 billion of income, turning the game a successful com-
mercial model without government subsidies. For the first time
all funding was raised by the game itself. Therefore, Samaranch
granted the gold medal to the committee of Los Angeles Olym-
pics, indicating his commercial innovation. He boldly aban-
doned coubertin’s non-commercial principle. Under his leader-
ship, financial resources sub-committee and market develop-
ment sub-committee successively established and began to
operate. When Olympic Games was held in Calgary in Canada,
the American broadcasting company bought the exclusive right
to broadcast the programme in America with more than $3
billion. Samaranch earned the first bucket of gold for the
Olympic movement. But he wasn't eager for quick success and
instant benefit. Immediately he realized that Olympic spirit
would lose if IOC soly relied on the exchange of television
right. The Olympics should be distinguished from the general
commercial sports contest. Therefore, he intentionally added
special remarks to the agreement that TV media could not in-
terfer IOC from making any decisions. The remarks thus car-
ried on Coubertin’s ideal of Olympic independence. Although
some private TV stations offered much more money, Sama-
ranch refused to sign agreement with them because he strictly
sticked to the priciple that Olympic TV signal must be broad-
casted free of charge for everyone to enjoy. In his eye, every-
one could afford to watch Olympic programme as long as he
loved the Olympics. No economic barriers could prevent him
from pursuing Olympic movement. Moreover, IOC clearly
rejected any sponsorship from tobacco manufacturers (Wang
Ying, 2007). In Olympic venues and the Olympic village any
form of advertisement was not allowed because the Olympic
movement aimed at promoting health. Although the Olympic
broadcast revenue was considerable, IOC still needed more
revenue to ensure its absolute economic independence. So
Samaranch began to implement the Olympic partner pro-
gramme for highest-level partners. Samaranch granted intellec-
tual property rights and marketing rights to the Olympic partner.
Samsung Electronics Company from South Korea joined the
partner programme. Relying on the Olympic propagation,
Samsung soon entered into the world top 500 enterprises. Re-
ciprocally, the partner programme changed the fate of the mod-
ern Olympic movement in a revolutionary way. It was the key
move for IOC to become prosperous. The partner programme
guaranteed full independence and autonomy of IOC.
Innovation on Olympic Professionalization
Coubertin stood against the Olympic professionalization.The
Olympic charter specified clearly that amateur athlete engaged
in sports out of hobby or for entertainment expecting no mate-
rial benefits. No professional athletes, besides fencing, could
join in any other Olympics. Obviously, this regulation drew all
professional players out. As a result international sports formed
two coexisting camps, the amateur party and the professional
party like the world cup, or NBA. There is no doubt that NBA
level is far above amateur basketball team. Due to professional
limitation, such basketball king or football emperor as pele,
Franz beckenbauer had no chance to play in the Olympics. The
audience could hardly please their eyes. Gradually they lost
their interests in the Olympics. Audience was the root for the
existence of the Olympics. So Samaranc h made the final c hoice
opposite to coubertin. He advocated to revise the Olympic
charter by clearly stipulating that athlete was qualified to take
part in the Olympics as long as he complied with both the regu-
lations of IOC and that of the international sports federations.
The revision allowed the contestant to participate in the Olym-
pics if he didn’t use his name or image to make advertisements.
Under such premise, the Olympics opened the door to the best
players in the world, neglecting his professional identity.
Samaranch also supported to reach agreement successively with
FIFA, horse alliance, etc. allowing professional athletes to take
part in the Olympics. In 1991 new eligibility criteria was listed
on the Oly mpic charter that athletes should be sent by Olympic
committee in his own country. This showed that the boundaries
between amateur athletes and professional ones were cancelled.
In 1992 NBA basketball star appeared in Barcelona Olympic
Games. This was the first time for professional athletes to enter
into the Olympic hall, adding more enjoyment to the audience.
TV media attracted more audience, too. Without too many
limitations, Olympics absorbed more athletes and consolidated
maximum of them to push forward sports movement.
Innovation on Women’s Olympic Participation
In history, the Olympics was the symbol of male’s strength,
allowing only man to participate. Watching the Olympic Games
was man's prerogative. Coubertin once openly showed his dis-
crimination against women by saying that: “as for allowing
women to take part in the Olympic Games, I still firmly oppose.
More and more female athletes are allowed to compete, and this
is against my will.” In Samaranch’s mind, sport belonged to all
human mankind, including men and women. Everyone was
equal to watch or attend the Olympics. Due to the characteris-
tics of sport game, some projects were even more suitable for
women. With such point of view Samaranch absorbed female
members into the IOC. Finland female athlete, Pierre Raman,
and Venezuela female athletes, Fonseca, were elected respec-
tively as IOC members. Proposed by Samaranch, woman spe-
cial working committee was set up in 1995, over which Anita,
former female Olympic champion, presided. Since then, IOC in
each nation and each sport federation kept certain seats for
female officials. In spite of busy work Samaranch especially
attended women sports conference held in Paris, on which he
called on national governments to take measures to encourage
women to come close to sports. Samaranch formed the tradition
to attach great importance to woman sport. Beijing Olympics is
a good example. Among 302 projects, female project amounted
to 127 and the mixed project took up 10. Compared with Ath-
ens Olympics, Beijing Olympics increased 2 female projects
(Li Xiaolan, 2005).
Samaranch inherited an old IOC, but he left us a totally new
J.-H. HU 25
one. Innovatively he accepted professional sports and flexiblely
cooperated with political authorities of UN. He aptly sold tele-
vision rights to realize Olympic commercialization in a stable
way. All the incomes were used to promote women sports. Due
to his innovation, the Olympic movement revived and opened a
new chapter(Zhao Dexun, 2007)
Positive Aspects of Samaranch’s I nnovations
The times helped Samaranch to make great achievem en t s and
post- Samaranch era proved his innovation. In 2008, 203 coun-
tries and regions participated Beijing Olympics, which made
the highest historical record. Although various factors caused
the breakthrough, it is undeniable that the Olympic prosperity
came after Samaranch’s innovation. Today many non-European
countries have made successful bid for the Olympics and more
and more developing countries are rather active in Olympic
movement. The Olympic movement is developing with much
more balance in all continents.
Shortly after taking office Samaranch devoted to Olympic
professionalism. Professional player’s involvement turned the
Olympics into the most popular sporting events. Fueled by
commerciaization, the Olympics has become a great business
with biggest social, economic and political influence. Every
government, major public media and each well-known big en-
terprise are quite enthusiastic in Olympics. The Olympic rings
have become a global mark with the highest recognition. In the
past not many countries competed to host. Today cities rack
their brains for successful bidding. The ownership of Olympics
has become a worldwide hottest topic.
Olympic doctrine is to combine sports and education together.
From the birth of Olympics, coubertin defined its educational
function. The mutual confluence of competative sports and
education aims to cultivate people. Olympic education is an
important content in the international Olympic sports promo-
tion and development. Coubertin was eager to build the Olym-
pic museum to cultivate people’s virtue. This dream turned true
through samaranch’s effort. With strong economic strength
through commercialization, IOC built the Olympic museum in
Switzerland so that the Olympic spirit could be passed from
generation to generation. So far, over a million tourists have
visited museum. It has truly carried forward the Olympic spirit.
Samaranch is worth the name as the educator and communica-
tor of the Olympic spirit.
Negative Aspects of Samaranch’s Innovations
Samaranch’s innovations made outstanding and glamorous
achievement. Under his leadership, IOC moved constantly to-
wards glory. But he is not a perfect man, neither is his innova-
tion. His experience is a mirror of our future practice, from
which we should draw some lessons to avoid repeating similar
Olympics expresses people’s hope to pursue the ideal to be
true, to be good and to be beautiful. Through competitive sports
they long for world peace and mutual understanding between
various nations. By sport they yearn for unity and sports ethics.
Instinctively any commercial behavior must pursue maximum
of economic benefits. When sports criterion and economic
benefit lose balance, merchants will not hesitate a moment to
prefer the latter, which will inevitably produce great impact on
Olympism. Following Samaranch’s commercial reform, doping
flooded in sports fields. It not only affected few games and
several people, but betrayed the Olympic spirit. Commerciali-
zation did harm to the whole Olympic cause. Although
Samaranch were cautious about it and took all possible meas-
ures to control the highly commercial Olympics, but he could
not reverse the trend. Atlanta Oly mpics had strong commercial
taste and was out of control. Seeking for maximum of benefit,
Coca-Cola Company made full use of Olympics to advertise
their products. The image of the company went far beyond the
light of Olympics itself. Atlanta Olympics became a real
“Coca-Cola Olympics”, whose evolution was far away from the
Olympic pursuit to be true, to be good and to be beautiful.
When broadcasting the programmes, business company con-
sidered the demands of market for higher coverage. To meet the
needs of TV broadcasting, sponsors could change the match
time according to audience’s interest convenience for high prof-
its. Broadcasters even cancelled some programmes because
audiences didn’t appreciate them. During Beijing Olympic
Games, swimmi ng final matc h and most gymna stic game s were
held in the morning of Beijing time because it was evening of
American time, the golden period for American fans to watch
Although Olympics do not grant any material rewards to
athletes, the great honors can bring them stunning prestige.
Popular atheletes can gain great advertising revenue. In order to
win the best Olympic achievements, athletes are willing to take
every gross means. Before kreegan, the women figure skater,
competed for an Olympic candidate, she was suddenly attacked
by a man, patellar and quadriceps severely injured. The next
day she was not able to attend the contest. Harding, her rival,
easily ranked first and won the qualification. Later the police
investigated that kreegan’s attack related to Harding’s ex-hus-
band. It was he who spent money hiring thugs to hurt kreegan.
Olympic professionalization also widens the gap between
developed region and developing region. It is well known that
American professional athletes in basketball, hockey, football
and baseball have reached the top level of the world. Other
countries can’t hold a candle to them. American athletic pro-
gram also goes ahead. They have produced the main Olympic
golds without many rivals. Professionalization benefits Ameri-
can sports quite a lot. Meanwhile, the level of the other coun-
tries are far behind that of the United States, which prevents the
competitive projects from developing in a benign way. Profes-
sionalisation is a double-edged sword enhancing the attractive-
ness of sports and producing imbalance crisis in sport.
In recent years IOC has strongly supported female project,
issuing new regulation that every newly-added project must
include female part. As a result, Olympic projects increase
greatly. Since Samaranch took office, the scale of Olympics has
expanded for the sake of Olympic movement. Competitors and
excessive number of participating nations have increased dra-
matically. 172 countries and regions were in Barcelona Olym-
pics in 1992. 12 years later the number achieved a record 202 in
Athens (Hu Jiahao, 2011). The quantity of coaches, referees,
journalists, security staff and service personnel was extremely
impressive. Such a big scale is certainly a heavy burden to any
host city. Even Los Angeles Olympics or Sydney Olympics
encountered such confusion as the idle sports venues and
hard-to- return investment. Host city inevitably faced economi-
cal risk at different levels. These questions really need serious
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