MADRID, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Tributes have begun flooding in for the former International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch who died of heart and respiratory failure in Barcelona this Wednesday aged 89.
The Spaniard, considered the father of the modern Olympic Games was the president of the IOC for 21 years between 1980 and 2001.
One of the first to pay tribute was the current President of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco.
"It is a sad and painful day for Spain and all the world, Juan Antonio and his work have gone a lot further than we can imagine. Today a Universal Spaniard has died, a man who left a legacy of sport or values and of peace that will be hard for anyone to better"
"Juan Antonio has taken sport to all of society and with values of education and peace, you can't explain it with words. I think it will be hard to have anyone like Juan Antonio Samaranch again," said Sr Blanco.
Spain's Secretary of State for Sport, Jaime Lissavetzky also praised Samaranch and his legacy.
"I think we have lost a reference in world sport. He was a man able to innovate in his life. He was a marvellous president of the IOC and he also brought the Olympic Games to Barcelona, but he was also able to create many organisms ahead of his time. I worked alongside him for six years and he was like my maestro and my teacher," said Lissavetzky on Spanish television.
Spanish Olympic Committee member Josep Lluis Vilaseca also praised Samaranch's memory.
"He was a man who we will never be able to thank him enough for what he did for Catalan, Spanish and World sport," he said, while Spanish Secretary of State for Education Angel Gabilondo highlighted that Samaranch had sometimes had to work in difficult circumstances.
"These days it is hard to understand that years ago it was not so easy to have relationships with other countries and cross frontiers with such ease. He was a person who gave an image of a hard working Spain and of a country that had initiative. He is a man who helped to open up the country," said Gabilondo.
Meanwhile Interior Minister Alfonso Perez Rubalcaba remembered that one of Samaranch's last public appearances was in Copenhagen in support of the failed Madrid 2016 Olympic bid. "I'd like us all to remember that image of him," he said.
Well wishers will be able to pay their final respects to Samaranch in the Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona on Thursday.