Monique Berlioux, the strong-willed director of the International Olympic Committee, announced her resignation today in the wake of a bitter feud with members of the IOC's executive board.
Berlioux, a former French swimming champion who has served as the Olympic movement's top administrator since 1971, cited "differing opinions" with the board that compelled her to leave the job "like a journalist invoking her conscience clause."
Choking back her emotions, Berlioux told reporters attending the 90th IOC session that disagreements are inevitable "in an organization like ours, with so many rich and varied personalities."
Berlioux, whose contract was due to run until the end of 1988, has clashed repeatedly with IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, a former Spanish diplomat who assumed his post in 1980. Samaranch refused any comment on the declaration that Berlioux would terminate her duties at the close of the meeting here Friday.
The announcement came as no surprise following reports that the IOC executive board had asked Berlioux on Sunday to take early retirement. Since then, lawyers representing both sides have sought to arrange a suitable "golden handshake."
According to IOC sources, Berlioux will be compensated for the termination of her contract and the job's $100,000 salary through a lump-sum settlement amounting to nearly $500,000.
Berlioux, 61, held 40 national swimming records and won the silver medal for France in the 1948 London Olympics. Before joining the IOC in 1967, she worked as a journalist and as press officer for the French Ministry of Sports.
She said she plans to write her memoirs and that she intends to remain active in world sports.
"These have been very difficult and very moving days for me," she said. "But I don't want to deal in the past. Now, my whole life is dedicated to the future."
Berlioux, who has been accused by IOC members of pro-French bias in her work, is expected to join Mayor Jacques Chirac's campaign to promote Paris as the site for the 1992 Summer Olympics. The two held a long private meeting Sunday after Chirac had formally presented Paris' candidacy.
Several IOC officials said the growing hostility between Berlioux and Samaranch had turned into such a ferocious personality battle that the departure of one had become unavoidable.
After his appointment in 1980, Samaranch established permanent residence in Lausanne, Switzerland, the site of IOC headquarters. His move signified a strong desire to play an active administrative role and virtually ensured a protracted power struggle with Berlioux.
Samaranch's predecessors, Avery Brundage and Lord Killanin, remained in their respective home towns of Chicago and Dublin, preferring to supervise the Olympic organization from afar. IOC sources said the antagonism between Berlioux and Samaranch already was building over the forthcoming choice of the host city for the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Although both officials have taken pains to avoid public displays of preference, Berlioux reportedly has pushed hard in IOC circles for the choice of Paris in order to mark the centenary there of the modern Olympic movement, which was inspired by a speech by her countryman, Pierre de Coubertin.
For his part, Samaranch is said to be ardently in favor of Barcelona, his native town, as the site for the 1992 Games. The city has failed in two bids to host the Olympics.
The main order of business at the current IOC session consisted of receiving the formal bids for the 1992 Olympics. The 1988 Summer Games will be in Seoul and the Winter Games in Calgary, Canada.
Other than Paris and Barcelona, the cities of Amsterdam, New Delhi, Belgrade (Yugoslavia) and Brisbane (Australia) have put forward requests to host the Summer Games seven years from now.
The six candidates for the 1992 Winter Games are Berchtesgaden, West Germany; Falun, Sweden; Lillehammer, Norway; Sofia, Bulgaria; Albertsville, France, and Cortina, Italy.
The debate will continue over the next 17 months until the IOC makes its final decisions at the next executive session in Lausanne, in October 1986.