SYDNEY (AP) -- IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch left the Sydney Games on Saturday (Friday night EDT), flying to Spain to be with his ailing wife.
IOC director general Francois Carrard said Samaranch was traveling to his home city of Barcelona to attend his 67-year-old wife, Maria Teresa Salisachs-Rowe, known as "Bibis."
Carrard gave no details of her illness, but she is reportedly suffering from cancer.
"This is a private matter for him and his family," Carrard said.
"He has an extreme sense of duty," Carrard said. "It's not possible for me to say today when he could come back. But he made clear he does intend to come back to the games as quickly as he can."
With Samaranch away, International Olympic Committee vice president Dick Pound of Canada takes over the president's duties in Sydney.
It's not the first time Samaranch has left during the Olympics. In 1994, he left the Winter Games in Lillehammer to pay a brief visit to Sarajevo, the 1984 Winter Games site then in the midst of war.
Samaranch revealed his wife's illness on Wednesday when he announced that she would not be coming to Sydney. He invited Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser to be his guest at Friday's opening ceremony.
Australian Prime Minster John Howard offered his best wishes to Samaranch.
"I'm so sorry to hear it," he told reporters. "I knew that his wife was very ill. He had hoped that her condition would not deteriorate so that he had to go home. We all hope that she pulls through this latest health crisis. She has been ill for a long time."
The Sydney Games are Samaranch's last Olympics as president of the IOC. The 80-year-old Spaniard is to step down next July after 21 years in office.
Samaranch and his wife have two children, Maria Teresa and Juan Antonio.