April 22 - Dozens of dignitaries and athletes, led by Spain's King Juan Carlos, attended a funeral mass tonight for former International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch.

The King and Queen Sofia, Prince Albert of Monaco and several Spanish Government Ministers and Samaranch's successor at the helm of the Olympic movement, Jacques Rogge, were among those who attended the ceremony at Barcelona Cathedral.

The coffin carrying Samaranch's remains, draped with the Olympic flag, was carried into the cathedral by top Spanish athletes, including former Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal, synchronised swimmer Gemma Mengual and handball keeper David Barrufet.

The King praised Samaranch as "A great Spaniard, a promoter of exemplary Olympic values, whose friendship, firm loyalty to the crown and permanent service to Spain we will never forget.

"Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain have lost one of their universal icons."

During the afternoon thousands paid their last respects to Samaranch, who was laid out at the Palau de la Generalitat, the Catalan Parliament.

Many were in tears.

"He is the most important person in the history of Spanish sports," said Nadal.

"I came here above all to support the [Samaranch] family and show appreciation for everything he did for our sport.

"He was able to revolutionise sport, until he became one of the most important people in the international Olympic Movement.

"He will always stay in our thoughts."

Samaranch's remains were to be cremated after the funeral mass.

Samaranch passed away yesterday from a cardiorespiratory arrest at a Barcelona hospital at the age of 89.

There was also a minute's silence in memory of Samaranch before the Europa League semi-final between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool.

Related stories
April 2010:
 Samaranch tributes led by Rogge as people travel from around the world to pay respects
April 2010: Juan Antonio Samaranch dead
April 2010: Juan Antonio Samaranch in intensive care in Barcelona hospital - doctors fear for his life