Germán Rieckehoff Sampayo (1915-1997)
Founder of the Albergue Olímpico
The great passion of his life was sports. He was one of those people who, because of their broad vision of the future and a clear view of their ideals, along with an undisputable intellectual capacity and a strong work ethic, managed to actually realize their dreams and are therefore marked by history. Don Germán Rieckehoff Sampayo was born in Vieques, Puerto Rico on February 5, 1915. He married Doña Irma Gonzalez, with whom he fathered three children. He graduated as a lawyer in 1952 from the University of Puerto Rico and practiced his profession until 1972, when he retired formally from his legal career to devote himself to sports. The life of Germán Rieckehoff Sampayo and especially that of his prodigious work in sports, is the story of the winner coming to the fore, the Man of action and of words, exuding optimism and faith.
He believed that through sports activities and under the protective canopy of the Olympic movement we can create a better world, based on friendship, fellowship, understanding and healthy coexistence. His struggle for sports and the Olympic movement, nationally and internationally, is unmatched in our history. Don Germán served this cause with the fervor of a crusade, the aggressiveness of a fighter and the patriotism of one who recognizes the importance of sports in the lives of people.
In 1940 – he founded and was elected first President of the Football Federation of Puerto Rico.
1942 – President of the Puerto Rico basketball Federation.
1963 – Founder and President of the Equestrian Federation of Puerto Rico.
1967 – Vice-President of the Olympic Committee of Puerto Rico.
1968 – Pro-Tempore Secretary of the Olympic Committee of Puerto Rico.
1972– Mission Chief of the delegation of Puerto Rico in the Olympics in Munich.
1973 – President of the Olympic Fund, Inc. Coordinator of international tournaments of the basketball Federation of Puerto Rico. President of the Organizing Committee of the VII Pan American Games. Delegate of the Olympic Committee of Varna.
1975 – Founder of the Puerto Rico Gymnastics Federation.
1977 – Elected member of the International Olympic Committee. Founder of the Hockey Federation of Puerto Rico. Founder of the Puerto Rico Rowing Federation.
1978 – Founder of the Puerto Rico skating Federation. Elected President of the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization (ODECABE).
1981 – Reelected as President of the Olympic Committee of Puerto Rico. Member of the Finance Committee and Association of Olympic committees of the world.
1982 – Reelected as President of the Central American sports organization and the Caribbean (ODECABE). He organized the “Great Olympic Crusade,” that raised $650,000 to send the delegation of Puerto Rico to the Central American sports games and the Caribbean, held at Havana, Cuba. This crusade is cataloged in Puerto Rico as one of the great civic feats to which everyone contributed.
1983 – Began negotiations for the purchase of the lands on which we are located today. Chairman of the delegation of Puerto Rico to the Olympic Games of Los Angeles and assumed an active volunteer position within and outside Puerto Rico against the Socialist boycott of the games. Re-elected President of the Olympic Committee of Puerto Rico for a third term.
1986 – Opened the Albergue Olímpico with an approximate attendance of 40,000 people and the presence, honoring the occasion, of his Excellency Don Juan Antonio Samaranch and other world sports leaders. In December, the Olympic Dinner was held, to reward outstanding athletes of the year and in the presence of Mr. Pascual Maragali, Mayor of Barcelona, speaker invited for the occasion, launched the idea that Puerto Rico should aspire to be the host of the Olympic Games of 2004.
1987 – The El Dorado Municipal Government awarded him the honor of “Distinguished Puerto Rican”.
1988 – Designated as member and Vice- President of the Government Board of the public broadcasting corporation that operates the radio and television stations of the people of Puerto Rico. He presided over that body from 1990 until 1992.
1992 – Devised and formulated the bases and obtained the approval of the law that created the Olympic trust.
Thanks to his efforts, the legislature approved three projects of importance to the Olympic movement of Puerto Rico;
- The Olympic Committee of Puerto Rico and its federations were granted autonomy.
- $12 million dollars are allocated to the Olympic Committee of Puerto Rico.
- $20 million dollars are allocated for the Albergue Olímpico.
On 2 September, 1997, Germán Rieckehoff was in Lausanne, Switzerland when he became ill. He was being transported to a hospital in an emergency air ambulance, accompanied by his wife and son, Juan Adolfo, but died during the flight. In his honor, the Olympic Museum houses his remains in an urn, together with those of his wife, who died in 2006.
Titles and Awards
1952 – Doctor in Law, Cum Laude from the University of Puerto Rico.
1978 – Proclaimed citizen of the year by the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association.
1979 – Decorated by the Government of Taiwan.
1986 – The University of Puerto Rico conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Arts, Honoris Causa.
1986 – Awarded the order of Duarte, Sanchez and Mella. by the Government of the Dominican Republic.
1988 – Honorable mention by the Government of Korea.
1990 – Merit Award conferred by the Association of Olympic Committees of the World; Distinguished Service To Sports Award; Promotion And Defense of Olympic Ideals award; awarded the title of Honorable Member of the International Olympic Committee for his Distinguished Services to Sports and his promotion and defense of the Olympic Ideal.
1991 – Medal of the Fifth Centenary of the discovery of Puerto Rico granted by the Government of Puerto Rico.
1993 – Occupied the “Pro-bono publico” position of Director Emeritus of the Albergue Olímpico.
1994 – Awarded the “Grand Order of Merit in Sports” of the National Institute of Recreation and Sports of the Republic of Cuba (INDER).