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Long-serving sports official Kocijančič dies aged 78

Ljubljana, 1 June - Janez Kocijančič, the long-serving Slovenian sports official who most recently served as the head of the European Olympic Committees, has died after a long illness at the age of 78, the Slovenian Olympic Committee (OKS) said on Monday.

Ljubljana
Former Slovenian Olympic Committee president Janez Kocijančič
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Kocijančič, who was also active in politics and business, was the president of the OKS between 1991 and 2014, and headed the European Olympic Committees since 2017.

Born in 1941, he graduated in law in 1965 and earned a master's and a doctoral degree in the same field, while he also entered politics at a young age, presiding the League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia in 1968-1971.

He was a secretary for health and culture in the government of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, and was removed from politics in Yugoslavia after the fall of the Stane Kavčič government in 1973.

Since then, he was active in business, including as the chief executive of the flag carrier Adria Airways between 1982 and 1993.

Kocijančič returned to politics in the late 1980s, and in 1993, two years after Slovenia gained independence, he became the leader of the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), the precursor of today's Social Democrats (SD).

In the same year, he became a member of the National Assembly, and stayed at the helm of the ZLSD until the end of his MP term in 1997.

But Kocijančič will be most remembered by his work in sports, where he has left an indelible mark, especially in skiing, while also serving at important international posts.

First he headed the ski association of Slovenia (1974-1984) and Yugoslavia (1984-1988), and in 1991, he was elected the first president of the OKS and served at the post for more than 23 years.

Since 2005, he was also a member of the executive committee of the European Olympic Committees, becoming the organisation's vice president in 2013 and its president in 2017.

In 1981, Kocijančič became a member of the presidency of the International Ski Federation (FIS), and had been its vice president since 2010.

He is the recipient of the Bloudek Award (1985), Slovenia's most prestigious sports accolade, and of the Norwegian King Olav Trophy (2014) for his global promotion of skiing.

Bogdan Gabrovec, who succeeded Kocijančič at the helm of the OKS over five years ago, said "he was a great leader, an exceptional person who has left a deep mark both in Slovenian and international sport" as he commented on the news of his death.

Gabrovec said he had learned a lot from his predecessor, adding that "we appreciated him greatly and learned not from his words, but his acts".

Expressing his condolences to Kocijančič's family on behalf of the state and personally, President Borut Pahor meanwhile said on Twitter that he was a respected figure in Slovenian political and athletic life.

Kocijančič's predecessor at the helm of the ZLSD, former constitutional judge Ciril Ribičič, told the STA that he admired him because of his moves in the international arena.

"He was a man of action, exceptionally convincing on the international scene when Slovenia was bidding to host a competition," he added.

SD current leader and MEP Tanja Fajon labelled Kocijančič as a man who had built the foundations of the independent and self-confident Slovenia. "A reformer of social democracy and a sports official we will always be proud of," she said on Twitter.

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© STA, 2020