Welcoming 90 colleagues to his native city, Barcelona, Samaranch appealed to them to open the doors to a wider Olympic movement - the first shot in the main political battle expected at the four-day meeting.
'Let me say here very clearly: the problems we face are very serious,' Samaranch said as he opened the IOC's 99th session. 'But there are solutions. They will most certainly call for a re-examination of many of our convictions and hence of our very structures.'
The executive board had said it would ask rank-and-file IOC members to let outsiders join in what has always been its prerogative, the election of Olympic host cities. Under the proposal, national Olympic committees and international federations would be given a say in who hosts the Games.
Samaranch said he had used special powers granted to him in February to appoint two new IOC members: Primo Nebiolo, head of the International Amateur Athletic Federation; and Olaf Poulsen, of the International Skating Union.
'Through these appointments, I have sought to show how important it is, to my mind, for the major international federations to be part of our organisation,' he said. 'It is for us to ensure that the two great forces which, with us, make up the Olympic movement can be fairly represented in our midst.'
The attempt to forge closer links comes as a result of a power struggle between the IOC and the increasingly powerful federations, especially the IAAF. The executive board proposal is not expected to have an easy passage at the session, where it needs a two- thirds majority among a group reluctant to dilute their sovereignty.
The director-general of the International Olympic Committee, Francois Carrard, said yesterday that he would see if he 'could work something out' after 20 countries - including Britain - signed a petition in protest against the decision to limit squads parading at the opening ceremony to six representatives.
Mary Joe Fernandez, the world No 7, will play for the United States tennis team after recovering faster than expected from a hip injury. Zina Garrison has damaged ankle ligaments but should also recover.
Britain's boxing hope,
Olympic countdown, page 30
- More about:
- British Cycling Federation
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- International Olympic Committee - IOC