Svein Arne Hansen, the president of European Athletics since 2015, has died at the age of 74, the organisation has reported.
Hansen passed away in Oslo on Saturday June 20, having failed to recover from a stroke he suffered on March 15.
He was the fifth president in European Athletics’ history since its inauguration in 1970, and was re-elected for a second term in the role last year. Before joining the organisation, Hansen had served as the meet director for the Bislett Games – now the Norwegian leg of the Diamond League tour – and as the vice-president and later president of the Norwegian Athletics Association.
He was also a strong critic of the doping scandals that have affected athletics in recent years, becoming a proponent of lifetime bans for athletes found to be cheating.
European Athletics chief executive Christian Milz said: “The world of athletics and the European Athletics family has today lost an inspirational leader and a good friend. I had the honour and privilege to work with Svein Arne for a number of years prior to 2015, and since then as our president. He was always trying his best to promote the sport, and always with a smile on his face. We will all miss him. I send my deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
Tributes have been paid to Hansen from across the world of athletics and beyond. World Athletics president Lord Sebastian Coe tweeted to say Hansen “was a game changer in our sport” who “helped generations of athletes fulfil their dreams”.
The European Broadcasting Union described Hansen as “one of the great characters of European sport”, with its director general, Noel Curran, adding: “This is a huge loss for the European Athletics family and for all of us at the EBU who knew him. European Athletics has lost a great leader and we at the EBU have lost a true friend and supporter of Public Service Media.”
European Athletics vice-president Cherry Alexander, meanwhile, added: “So sad to hear of the passing of my big boss Svein Arne Hansen…he paved the way for me to be only the 2nd female vice-president of EA and was always so supportive & full of encouragement & advice.”