Samaranch suffers age limit setback

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The Independent Online
Olympic Games

The International Olympic Committee president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, suffered a crushing personal defeat yesterday when opponents in the IOC blocked a rule change that would have allowed him another term in power.

IOC members, meeting in Budapest to choose the hosts of the 2002 Winter Olympics, were asked whether they should amend the organisation's age limit of 75.

Samaranch, who turns 75 in July and will have to retire at the end of his current term in 1997 after 17 years in power, needed the limit changed to enable him to carry on until the 2000 Sydney Games. In a preliminary ballot, members voted 62-27 in favour of changing the age limit.

Presented with three options for change, including one that would have exempted Samaranch personally, they voted by simple majority to scrap the age limit altogether.

But in a final ballot the proposal failed by two votes to win the two- thirds majority needed to amend the Olympic Charter.

Samaranch's rivals within the organisation, including the Canadian IOC member Dick Pound, appeared delighted by the decision. "It was a wonderful afternoon of democracy in action," Pound said.

Samaranch's supporters pointed out that the issue was not yet dead. It could come up at the next full IOC session before next year's Games in Atlanta.