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"To me, the quality most important in a human being is loyalty," Madame says. "I hate being disappointed. Those who disappoint me, I prefer not to see them anymore. I wash them from my memory."
"She is a career woman with great willpower, great talent and great capacity for work," says Meuwly, now a court reporter for a Lausanne newspaper. "She loves power. When she arrived in Lausanne, we were a small group. We had no money. She was very tough. Little by little, she got organized and built up the secretariat [it now numbers 35]. Because of her, the IOC has taken on a spectacular character. She brought to it more decorum and a high degree of efficiency. While we had carried on in the modest Swiss way, she changed it all with her indomitable esprit français."
IOC presidents have come and gone, Brundage making way for Killanin, who was succeeded by Juan Antonio Samaranch, a Spanish diplomat, but Madame remains, and her durability enhances her power. As a salaried employee—she makes $100,000 a year—she isn't a member of the IOC, an honor that has never been accorded to any woman. But she is the Lausanne Connection for the 85 unpaid IOC members—all rich, many titled, many septuagenarian—as well as their link with the 147 national Olympic committees and 26 international sports federations. She handles a staggering amount of correspondence, arranges and directs meetings and follows up on the decisions taken. She deals with budget matters and drives a hard bargain when the IOC's share of Olympic television rights is at stake. She also writes and edits the monthly Olympic Review and conducts press conferences with both alacrity and asperity. "Ask a dumb question and she demolishes you," says one journalist. Surprisingly, Madame confesses to some uneasiness before the press. "My hands are sweating every time," she says. "I know I make mistakes in English and I have no time to correct them. My accent is terrible. But now I have decided, once and for all, that I should not care about my accent but my vocabulary."
"She is closely watched, especially by the members of the executive board, because she is a woman," says Chief Accountant Jacques Belgrand, who has been working for Berlioux for 10 years. "She knows it and that's why she wants to do her work better than a man would."
During a recent visit to Los Angeles, the site of the 1984 Olympics, Berlioux drove herself relentlessly through a week of meetings, luncheons, cocktail parties and dinners while struggling to overcome the nine-hour time difference between L.A. and Lausanne. One of the reasons for the trip was to acquaint Samaranch, the new IOC president, with the 1984 venues. As Samaranch and Berlioux strolled into the Coliseum, the former (1932) and future Olympic stadium, with Peter Ueberroth, the president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, Berlioux turned to Ueberroth and said, "Has this been changed? When I last came here, 10 years ago, it was terribly shabby."
Ueberroth: "We got a new track."
Berlioux: "But you also changed the seats."
Ueberroth: "Yes. Some."
Although the L.A. committee is making all the preparations for the Games and will be the host, it too is new to the job and needs expert advice. "The best place to learn from is the IOC," says Ueberroth. "The meetings with President Samaranch and Madame Berlioux were primarily held so we could profit from their experience, and Madame Berlioux in particular was very helpful. She provides the continuity between the Games and helps each organizing committee get pointed in the right direction. Furthermore, the IOC has the right to co-negotiate our TV contracts. Madame was able to advise us of the history of prior negotiations with the same groups. She or her representative attends every negotiating session.
"She works very hard to get the policies of the president across and I think that is why our meetings were very lengthy. Since he is a new president to the IOC, his policies are also new to her and she has to bring them to us."