Janez Kocijancic, EOC Leader, 78

(ATR) The Slovenian attorney and sport leader is said to have suffered a sudden illness.

(ATR) European Olympic Committees President Janez Kocijančič is being remembered as a proponent of European sport.

The Slovenian attorney’s death was announced June 1 by the EOC "following a courageous battle against a sudden and severe disease," says a release from the continental Association.

IOC President Thomas Bach called Kocijančič "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," said Bach in a statement.

Kocijančič was elected to the EOC presidency in 2017 after serving a year on an interim basis after the demise of his predecessor Patrick Hickey. Hickey was arrested during the 2016 Rio Olympics by Brazilian police on charges he was behind illegal sales of tickets to the games. Hickey, who was also president of the Olympic Council of Ireland at the time, as well as an IOC member, was jailed for a short time and then barred from leaving Brazil for some months after the Olympics. Hickey has denied the charges and has yet to face trial in Brazil nearly four years later.

Kocijančič oversaw the second edition of the European Games in Minsk in 2019 and European Youth Olympic Festivals in Baku and Sarajevo & East Sarajevo.

"He has left a huge void in the heart of the Olympic Movement of Europe," lamented EOC Secretary General Raffaele Pagnozzi.

"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."

The successor to Kocijančič is expected to be Denmark NOC president Niels Nygaard, who currently is EOC vice president.

Kocijančič was president of the Slovenia NOC from 1991 to 2014. Active in the sport of skiing, he headed the Slovenian Ski Association for 10 years from 1974 and then 14 years as president of the Yugoslav Ski Association.

He had been a member of the International Ski Federation Council since 1981 and a vice president of FIS at the time of his death.

He led Slovenia's first delegation to the Winter Olympics in 1992 to Albertville.

As a continental association president, Kocijančič was also a vice president of the Association of National Olympic Committees.

A lawyer by education, Kocijančič was active in business and politics. He served for 15 years as a member of the Slovenian Parliament and was president of Adria Airways, the national airline of Slovenia.

Kocijančič is survived by his wife Andreja, son Gorazd and daughter Nike.

Reported by Ed Hula.