The Saporta connection

The Saporta connection

In May of 1958, Jordi Bonareu had finished the link with the Orillo Verde de Sabadell and moved to Madrid to negotiate his incorporation with Real Madrid basketball. He traveled with his father, Joan, and met with Santiago Bernabeu and Raimundo Saporta . They ate, as always, at the José Luis restaurant and they agreed to the signing for the Madrid club. However, he never played on the white team. A sciatica attack left his father prostrate in bed for many months and the magnificent power forward, who scored 45 points in a match against Belgium 

a record that lasted for many years – had to rectify his desire to go to the Spanish capital . Saporta visited him in Mataró and in the presence of the family broke the record that he committed to Madrid. “The person is before the player, although I am aware that I just lost the league,” said the Real Madrid coach. And he was right. Bonareu returned to Barcelona to form a demolishing tandem with Nino Buscató and win the League and the Cup. Then, with 24 years and only six on the slopes, he retired to take care of the family business. But the friendship with Saporta, who was his godfather, remained until the death of the manager, in February 1997.

Bonareu had nothing to do with the Olympic adventure that Barcelona began at the end of the 70s of the last century. But it was witness in the shadow of many conversations that benefited Barcelona’s aspirations.

The Minister Solis Ruiz did not want Samaranch, but the Real Madrid reminded him of the importance of sport in Catalonia

The Minister Solis Ruiz did not want Samaranch, but the Real Madrid reminded him of the importance of sport in Catalonia

Logically, the presence of Juan Antonio Samaranch at the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was a determining factor in the entire process, as well as that of so many people who were involved in the project. But two people worked for years with discretion and success, and contributed to the Olympic success of Barcelona. One of them is Raimundo Saporta, a key figure of Real Madrid basketball; the other, Anselmo López , one of the forgers of the sport of the basket in Spain. The two, together with Samaranch, formed a key triangle in the Olympic trajectory of the Catalan capital.

History has its beginning in the last months 1966 in the office of Saporta in the Foreign Bank of Spain. A call from José Solís Ruiz, minister general secretary of the Movement -cargo that he occupied between 1957 and 1969-, to advise himself changed the destiny of Samaranch. Solís – his phrase “more sport and less Latin”, became famous – sought a replacement for Elola-Olaso as a national delegate of the Higher Sports Council. Saporta gave the name of Samaranch, but the reticence of the minister was explicit in the first instance. “But if it’s Catalan,” he replied. The Madridista leader replied: “In Catalonia we are practicing sports and in Madrid we are spectators”. The future of the Barcelonian leader took a qualitative leap from that moment, first in Spain and later in the world when entering the International Olympic Committee, where in a decade he became vice president, and then to be appointed, in 1977, ambassador in the Soviet Union, a destination in which he developed many contacts that opened the doors of the IOC presidency.

A meeting between Samaranch, Saporta and López at a hotel in Geneva designed the strategy that would lead to the Olympic nomination

A meeting between Samaranch, Saporta and López at a hotel in Geneva designed the strategy that would lead to the Olympic nomination

During this stage, the relationship with Saporta, which had a firm and very influential position in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and therefore in other world spheres – in 1973 made it possible for a Eurobasket to be held in Barcelona and Badalona, ​​and in 1982 placed the inauguration of the World Cup in the Camp Nou-, continued and was a great help for Samaranch.

In 1980, when the genesis of Barcelona’92 had already taken place, Samaranch replaced the Irishman Lord Killanin as head of the IOC, but his arrival in the organization was not easy. The situation of the Olympic movement had nothing to do with the current one. The Games of Montreal’76 had left a high debt and those of Moscow, about to begin, came with the boycott of the United States and 57 other countries after the Russian invasion in Afghanistan. In addition, the French Monique Berlioux, the director of the IOC since the last stage of Avery Brundage, was who actually had all the power in the institution, which slowed the plans of the new president.

Anselmo López wove a support network with the new agency, which helped many countries and brought 15 new members to the IOC

Anselmo López wove a support network with the new agency, which helped many countries and brought 15 new members to the IOC

The following year, a meeting between Samaranch, Saporta and López at the Beau-Rivage hotel in Geneva changed the direction of the designation for 1992. Barcelona had a good project, with excellent facilities, hotel capacity, nearby venues and, above all, the involvement of all institutions, the Spanish State, the Generalitat and the City Council. But there were other candidates and ahead of Belgrade, Brisbane, Birmingham and Amsterdam was Paris. The French capital had enough potential to be nominated, but the three Spanish leaders designed a strategy to favor Barcelona and, at the same time, to limit the authority of Berlioux.

The birth of Olympic Solidarity, led by Anselmo López, gave access to new members in the IOC, countries that received direct aids -teachers, materials, advice- to promote the sports activity that most interested them. The work of the Madrid leader, who had been head of the Spanish delegation in five consecutive Games (Mexico, Munich, Montreal and Moscow, in addition to Sapporo with Paquito Fernández Ochoa’s historical gold), was as necessary as it was effective, with numerous trips all over the world in which new pacts were woven that would be very important for the future of the Catalan candidacy.

When the COI director left office in 1985, Samaranch had free hands to make the decisions she wanted

Between 1981 and 1986 the IOC welcomed fifteen new members – including Princess Nora of Liechtenstein or Prince Albert of Monaco – and the contribution of Olympic Solidarity was generous with all of them thanks to the new funds that the body that runs the world Olympic began to raise with the sponsorship and the contracts with the televisions. It had begun a very different stage from the previous one that would change the balance of forces within the IOC.

At the same time, Ernesto Segura de Luna, president of the Spanish Basketball Federation, had begun conversations with the NBA commissioner, David Stern, so that the players of the best league in the world could compete in the Games, a negotiation that Saporta himself transferred. to the International Federation, controlled by the everlasting Secretary General, Borislav Stankovic. The goal is to start in Barcelona, ​​where years later a dream team baptized as Dream Team made an appearance. This movement also guaranteed the support of the US Olympism.

Ernesto Segura de Luna started conversations with the NBA so that the best players in the world could compete in 1992

Ernesto Segura de Luna started conversations with the NBA so that the best players in the world could compete in 1992

The confrontation of Samaranch with Berlioux ended on June 4, 1985, when the director reached a pact to rescind her contract with the IOC and join the candidacy of Paris, which continued to dominate in betting. But the work of Raimundo Saporta and Anselmo López continued to advance, creating more alliances and the reality is that Barcelona had already taken the initiative before the French capital. Thus, the night before the vote, Lopez was very clear about the outcome and, in a telephone conversation, he told Bonareu: “I am very happy about what we will achieve tomorrow. Barcelona will mark its future and from now on it will be at the forefront of the best cities in the world. “

The rest of the story is known. In Lausanne, on October 17, 1986, the Catalan capital sent in all the votes ahead of Paris, to obtain the nomination by 47-23 before Paris. Samaranch, before an expectant audience, pronounced the phrase “à la ville de … Barcelona”.