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Janez Kocijancic, Slovenia's top sports official, dies at 78

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Janez Kocijančič, Slovenia's leading sports official for decades, died on Monday. He was 78. The European Olympic Committees, of which Kocijančič was the ruling president, said he died after “a sudden and severe disease” in Ljubljana without elaborating.

He was the first president of Slovenia's Olympic Committee upon independence in 1991 for 23 years, and a council member of the International Ski Federation since 1981. Kocijančič was also active in politics; a government minister in the former, Communist-run Yugoslavia, and a member of parliament after Slovenia's independence, the official STA news agency said.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor expressed his condolences on Twitter for “Janez Kocijančič, a prominent figure in Slovenian political and sports life.” Tanja Fajon, the interim president of the Social Democrats party, paid tribute to Kocijančič on Twitter as “a man who built the foundations of an independent and self-confident Slovenia with a generation of progressive politicians. A reformer of social democracy and a sports worker we will always be proud of.”

Kocijančič was key to the country's skiers quickly competing under their own flag within months of independence, and led the country's first Olympic delegation at the 1992 Albertville Winter Games. He headed Slovenia's and Yugoslavia's ski associations while also serving as a director of Slovenia’s flag carrier, Adria Airways.

His presidency of the European Olympic Committees included the second European Games last year in Minsk, Belarus. “He has left a huge void in the heart of the Olympic movement of Europe,” EOC secretary general Raffaele Pagnozzi said. “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 is survived by wife Andreja and two children.

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