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Lausanne tones down Samaranch tribute

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Lausanne will not consider awarding honorary citizenship to Olympic chief Juan Antonio Samaranch because the mayor fears the move would lead to a political fight.

Lausanne is the headquarters of the IOC. Samaranch instead will receive "The Keys to the Olympic City" in May. That honor does not have to be approved by parliament.

Mayor Jean-Jacques Schilt told The Associated Press he was concerned of possible opposition in the city's parliament because Samaranch served in the former regime of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.

"We wanted to honor Mr. Samaranch, who has made Lausanne the Olympic city it is today, but we were worried it might turn political," Schilt said.

"Twenty years ago there was a controversy in the city parliament over the honorary citizenship granted to two Swiss politicians," Schilt said. "It was purely political: Left-wingers in the city opposed a right-wing candidate, and right-wingers a left-winger."

"That completely ruined the occasion," he added. "And we want to make sure nothing like that wrecks the spirit in which we want to honor Mr. Samaranch."

Schilt said there had been no formal nomination to make Saramanch an honorary citizen.

"There was no request, so there was no refusal," he said.

Schilt said giving Samaranch the keys to the city was a way of showing he was always welcome in Lausanne.

Samaranch, who has headed the Olympic movement for 21 years, steps down in July. The International Olympic Committee has been based here since 1915.