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Samaranch Leaves to Be With Ill Wife

September 16, 2000|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | From Staff and Wire Reports

SYDNEY, Australia — International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who Friday presided over the ceremony opening the Sydney Games, left town this morning to be with his ailing wife.

Samaranch left on an 11:30 a.m. flight out of Sydney, bound for Barcelona, Spain. It is not clear when he will return. Senior IOC officials said Samaranch told them he hopes to be back in Sydney "as soon as possible," but probably not until late next week or even next weekend at the earliest.

IOC insiders have known for months that Maria Teresa Samaranch, whom friends call Bibis, is ill. The nature of what prompted her husband to leave the final Games of his 20 years as IOC president--so that he could be with her in Barcelona--was not immediately clear. They have been married for nearly 45 years.

One source said there was a "sudden deterioration" of Mrs. Samaranch's health. Another said, "She is in a difficult situation."

Mrs. Samaranch traveled with her husband to an IOC meeting in June 1999 in Seoul. Since then, her visibility has been markedly reduced.

It is highly unusual but not unprecedented for an IOC president to leave the Games while they are on.

Samaranch led an IOC delegation that left the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, for a few days to tour bombed-out venues from the 1984 Games in Sarajevo. The trip was made to call attention for the need to stop the civil war that was then ravaging the former Yugoslavia.

Under IOC protocol, the ranking vice president, currently Canada's Dick Pound, will assume many of Samaranch's duties. "What he wants is for the IOC to carry on as if he were here," Pound said today.

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