Rewarded with love and friendship, Samaranch family shares stories and memories in China

Source: Xinhua| 2019-09-26 13:58:04|Editor: huaxia
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In this file photo taken on Aug. 13, 2008, Juan Antonio Samaranch (C), former president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), views the boxing competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua)

"Although there is a language barrier, my family and I have been able to develop great friendships which we want to maintain," said IOC Vice President Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr.

MADRID, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- For late former International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch, among many honorary degrees and titles he received around the world, the one he cherished the most is the "good friend of Chinese people."

Samaranch presided over the IOC for 21 years in 1980-2001 and his numerous achievements have made him the most influential and significant figure in the history of the Olympic Movement since the founder of the Modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

Having visited China for 29 times in more than 30 years since 1978, Samaranch once said he was rewarded with love and friendship in China, and learned how to love and show respect for the Chinese.

Zhu Bangzao, former Chinese ambassador to Spain, once visited Samaranch when the legendary Olympic figure was 88 years old.

After a two-hour conversation, the lovely and respectable old man insisted on sharing his private collections with him for more than one hour, Zhu told Xinhua.

Samaranch lent support for and witnessed important moments of China's sports, including helping China regain a formal seat in the IOC in 1979 and awarding Xu Haifeng, the first ever Chinese to win an Olympic gold medal, in 1984.

According to Zhu, Samaranch spoke highly of the successful Beijing Olympic Games, regarding as the proudest achievement of his life helping China return to the Olympic family and bringing the 2008 Summer Olympic Games to Beijing.

In this file photo taken on Sept. 11, 2008, Juan Antonio Samaranch (C), former president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), leaves words for the Dongsi Olympic Community Museum in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua)

Over the years, Samaranch, who died at the age of 89 in 2010, is still remembered and his contributions are still highly regarded in China.

In 2008, the Chinese Olympic Committee awarded the late IOC president its highest medal of honor for his outstanding contribution to the Olympic Movement. In December 2018, Samaranch was among the 10 foreigners who was awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal.

"Before he became IOC president, my father knew that the Olympic Movement would not amount to anything without China and that is why he worked for China's inclusion during his mandate," said IOC Vice President Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr.

Following the footsteps of his father, Samaranch Jr also devoted himself to promoting sports and cultural exchanges between China and other parts of the world.

Living in a house decorated with traditional Chinese cultural elements, and with a bookshelf lined with Chinese books, Samaranch Jr. said these traces of love for China symbolized the three generations of his family's close ties with China.

Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. , vice president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) attends the launching ceremony of the book "President Samaranch", in Beijing, capital of China, May 10, 2019 (Xinhua/Jin Liangkuai)

Samaranch Jr. launched Samaranch Sports Development Foundation, which has carried out a series of public welfare activities including sponsoring Olympic Expo in the past seven years, which helps promote Olympianism and closer cultural relations between Spain and China.

It's hard to count how many times he has been to China, and "every time I go (to China) I am surprised," he said, highlighting China's advances in economy and technology, as well as its environmental improvement.

"What I like most about China are the people. Although there is a language barrier, my family and I have been able to develop great friendships which we want to maintain," said the IOC vice president.

On June 6-7 this year, Samaranch's grandson acted as a substitute football teacher in a project launched by Samaranch Foundation in China's northeastern Jilin Province, which attracted around 240 children from nine primary schools.

As the youngest generation of Samaranch's family, he was encouraged by his grandfather to start learning Chinese at the age of 10.

"I studied for a couple of months, but like any boy of my age, all I was thinking about was playing. How wrong I was and how right he was," he said.