The main task facing the dapper, wealthy, Barcelona businessman-turned-diplomat who will head the world Olympic movement for the next eight years will be to heal the tumultuous divisions of the last six months.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, the first post-Franco Spanish ambassador to Moscow and now the next president of the International Olympic Committee, inherits an Olympic tradition now struggling with such questions as:
What is the proper relationship between politics and sports?
Can the traditional world of the IOC, with its wealthy and titled membership, survive superpower rivalry that will continue as Los Angeles prepares for the 1984 summer games and the Soviets smart at the US boycott here in Moscow?
Can the chauvinism, flag-waving, and anthem-playing of the modern games be reversed, so that the focus of the games returns to contests between individuals rather than between countries?
Is the Olympic movement simply too big and unwieldy? In 1952 the IOC had 65 members and 78 national Olympic committees. As of this year there are 89 IOC members and 148 NOCs.
Should the Olympics be held at a permanent site in Greece instead of moving from city to city? Calgary, Canada, and cities in Italy and Sweden are competing for the 1988 winter games. Nagoya, Japan, and possibly Melbourne, Australia, want the 1988 summer games. Yet the games are expensive to stage and attract political demonstrations more and more.
The political storm over Afghanistan in the last six months culminated an ever-increasing race between East and West to use the games to show the prowess of social systems.
As Los Angeles works to prepare for the 1984 games, politics will be heavily involved in IOC affairs and Mr. Samaranch will be fully tested. Moscow is expected to try to complicate the Los Angeles planning or even take the games away if it can, to retaliate for this year's boycott.
Soviet publicity continually harps on the number of times it won the most medals at the games. East Germany has made a tremendous effort. In 1976 it won 40 golds, to the US figure of 34, and finished only four medals behind the United States in the overall standings to take third place.
This year more than 40 NOCs are absent, and almost all of Western Europe will reduce participation in the opening ceremonies and use Olympic flags to avoid marching their own flags past Soviet leaders.
Mr. Samaranch will face a big test in Baden-Baden, West Germany, next year when the IOC selects cities to host the games for 1988 and reviews plans for Los Angeles in 1984 (and for the 1984 winter games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia).
He is resigning as Spanish ambassador to Moscow to concentrate on his IOC presidency. The outgoing IOC president, Lord Killanin, has told friends he spent an average of 1 week in every 4 on committee business. He has urged the IOC to let time pass for "the dust to settle." He feels the games are too big, too political.
Ambassador Samaranch, unhappy at this year's boycott, will have to spend even more time mediating disputes inside the committee and representing it to the US, Soviet, and other governments.