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China hails Samaranch as "an old friend of Chinese people"

2010-04-22 08:54 BJT

BEIJING, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Yu Zaiqing, vice president of the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC), on Wednesday paid tribute to the late former International Olympic Committee chief Juan Antonio Samaranch, naming him "an old friend of the Chinese people."

File photo taken on July 13, 2001 shows Juan Antonio Samaranch, former president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), announcing that Beijing, capital of China, won the right to host the 2008 Olympics during a meeting in Moscow, Russia. Juan Antonio Samaranch died at the age of 89 on April 21, 2010 in Barcelona after suffering from severe heart attack. (Xinhua)
File photo taken on July 13, 2001 shows Juan Antonio Samaranch, former 
president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), announcing that 
Beijing, capital of China, won the right to host the 2008 Olympics during
a meeting in Moscow, Russia. Juan Antonio Samaranch died at the age of 89
on April 21, 2010 in Barcelona after suffering from severe heart attack. 

Yu said in a statement, "Samaranch is an old friend of the Chinese people. He had always hoped that China could host an Olympic Games. And his wish was finally realized in 2008. The Chinese people thank him."

Yu, who is also an International Olympic Committee vice president, added, "We want to express our deep condolences to the death of Mr. Samaranch. He has made tremendous contributions to the Olympic movement."

He Zhenliang, the Honorary President of the COC and one of China's most famous sports figure, was deeply saddened by the death of Samaranch, whom he worked with for 20 years since he was elected to the IOC in 1981.

"The Olympic Movement lost a great leader, China lost a close friend and I lost a very close friend and an old brother," said the 80-year-old He.

It was during Samaranch's reign that China returned to the Olympics in 1984 after a 32-year absence. And awarding the 2008 Olympics to Beijing was widely regarded as one of Samaranch's final legacies at the end of his Olympic reign in 2001.

"Samaranch has made great efforts to help China regain the positions in IOC and other international sports organizations. He also made great efforts to support China to have a bigger say in the international sports arena," He said.

"We can never forget President Samaranch's help in Beijing's successful bid and the exceptional success of the 2008 Olympic Games. When the preparations for the Beijing Olympics was disturbed by some political factors, he always firmly stood behind us," He told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

Samaranch died in a hospital in Barcelona on Wednesday at 89. He was IOC chief between 1980-2001.

One of his last public appearances was on March 4 this year when was awarded Hispano-Chinese Foundation prize for his time as President of the Hispano-Chinese Forum, which he had led since November 2001.

Editor: Jin Lin | Source: Xinhua