European Olympic Committees president Janez Kocijančič has died at the age of 78 after what the EOC described as a “sudden and severe” disease.
The eighth president of the EOC, Kocijančič was elected to the top post in November 2017 after four years as vice-president. He joined the EOC in 2005 as a member of the Executive Committee.
Prior to assuming the top job, the Slovenian official had been serving as acting president of the organisation since August 2016. This came after Patrick Hickey stepped down from the role following his arrest in Rio de Janeiro in connection with an investigation into ticket scalping at the 2016 summer Olympic Games in the Brazilian city.
During his term as president, Kocijančič oversaw the successful staging in 2019 of the second edition of the European Games multi-sport event in Minsk, Belarus, the summer European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Baku and its winter equivalent in Sarajevo and East Sarajevo.
EOC secretary general Raffaele Pagnozzi said: “He has left a huge void in the heart of the Olympic Movement of Europe. He will be remembered for his professionalism and wise vision in profoundly understanding the diversity between the European countries.
“His cultural and historical knowledge was of great benefit to the sport movement in Europe and helped lead it to a prominent position globally.”
Kocijančič previously served as president of the National Olympic Committee of Slovenia (1991-2014), president of the Slovenian Ski Association (1974-1984) and president of the Yugoslav Ski Association (1984-1988). He was also a member of the Council of the International Ski Federation (FIS) from 1981 and its vice-president since 2010.
Since 2017, he had also served as the vice-president of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) for Europe.
A lawyer by education, Kocijančič had a successful career in both politics and business. Among other roles, he was a member of the Slovenian Government and Parliament from 1982 to 1997 and president of Adria Airways, the national airline of Slovenia, from 1982 to 1993. Since 1997, he had served as president of JK Consulting.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach offered a tribute by saying: “Janez Kocijančič was a great ambassador and promoter of the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Values. He was a true believer in the Olympic values for education, for peace and for social inclusion.
“For me, like many in the Olympic Movement, he was a true friend and I deeply admired the dignified way he faced his illness. We will always remember and honour him, and the Olympic flag will fly at half mast for this great man of our Olympic Movement.”