Juan Antonio Samaranch is used to pampering. The president of the International Olympic Committee is introduced as His Excellency and, though he draws no salary, keeps a suite at the posh Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the I.O.C. is based. At short notice, the President of the U.S. has been known to squeeze him into the White House schedule. Private jets are at Samaranch's disposal, and he eschews the highway to travel the 60 km from Lausanne to Geneva by helicopter. But in a telephone interview with TIME's Helena Bachmann, Samaranch sounded stressed and tired. "The scandal has affected me deeply on a personal level," he said of the Salt Lake City imbroglio. "After 18 years watching this organization grow and prosper, these charges are extremely hard to accept."
Samaranch admitted that the I.O.C. is "in a storm." Insiders say the controversy has rocked the culture of self-righteousness and autocratic arrogance at the Chateau de Vidy, where the I.O.C. is headquartered. "Samaranch has done a lot of good things for the I.O.C.," said a French staff member, "but he has not exactly been a promoter of openness." Now, said the insider, that higher-than-thou attitude may be "over and done," as critics call for Samaranch's departure. It is a move he refuses to countenance. "If I.O.C. members have confidence in me, I am ready to stay on and continue until the end of my term, in 2001," he says. "We are all going through a difficult time now but remain confident that after the storm, calm will prevail."