|The Executive Committee of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) welcomed International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach to Ljubljana, Slovenia yesterday for a ceremony to commemorate and celebrate the life of EOC President Janez Kocijančič, who passed away on 1 June.
The ceremony was held at the Grand Hotel Union in the presence of Kocijančič’s wife Andreja and daughter Nike.
“I have hardly heard anybody speak so convincingly about the importance of sport for education, for solidarity, for social values, for bridging the gap between peoples. Or as they would say now, against any form of discrimination,” President Bach said. “And Janez was not only speaking of this, he was living these values.
“He was one of the most valuable advisors within the Olympic Movement,” he continued. “One who was able to look at situations from a different angle sometimes, who gave you ideas on how to also approach a challenge. And this was something I will always appreciate.”
At the ceremony, Kocijančič was posthumously awarded the EOC Order of Merit in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the cause of European sport and his faithfulness to the Olympic ideals. EOC ExCo Member Zlatko Matesa presented the Order to Kocijančič’s wife and daughter together with President Bach, EOC Acting President Niels Nygaard, EOC Secretary General Raffaele Pagnozzi, EOC Acting Treasurer Peter Mennel, Slovenian Minister of Education, Science and Sport Dr. Simona Kustec and the President of the Olympic Committee of Slovenia Association of Sports Federations Bogdan Gabrovec.
“Our President was a man of vision, dedicated to all aspects of his life. Whatever he touched – business, politics – he was successful,” Matesa said. “But there was one part of his life that was his own, and that was sport. That was his love, besides his family. Through all the decades he spent in sport, it was his way of spreading his thoughts about sport, about Olympism and about Olympic values.
“He helped build the Slovenia Olympic Committee from the very beginning, through six mandates, which is really something very special,” Matesa continued. “And what was the result? You have the most successful country in the world when comparing number of citizens and sports results. This is also part of his legacy.”
A lawyer by education, Janez had a successful career in both politics and business. But it was sport that Janez dedicated the most important part of his life. A lifelong fan and champion of sports who enjoyed playing tennis, golf and skiing, he was a key figure first in the Olympic Movement of Slovenia and later at the international level.
He served as President of the Slovenian Ski Association and President of the Yugoslav Ski Association, when Slovenian skiers reached their highest success worldwide.
At the time of Slovenia’s independence, Janez was one of the Members who strongly supported the foundation of the Slovenian Olympic Committee, which was established on 15 October 1991.
Janez was the first President of the NOC of Slovenia, a post he held from 1991-2014.
His career in the international sports world was equally successful. He was the Vice President of the International Ski Federation (FIS) since 2010. At the European level, the doors of the EOC opened to Janez in 1997, when he started his long journey in the organisation first as an auditor and then as a Member of the Executive Committee.
After four years as Vice President, he was elected President of the EOC in November 2017 and consequently became the Vice President of the Association of the National Olympic Committees (ANOC).
Among numerous initiatives, Janez strongly encouraged the birth of the European Games and oversaw the successful organisation of its 2nd edition in Minsk in 2019.
Whether in politics, business or sport, all those who crossed his path fondly remember him as a passionate and honest man with a great sense of humour.
He was praised for his unwavering confidence in the power of sport and in the unity of the Olympic Movement.
“It is as a true man of sport that we learnt to know and appreciate Janez across the many years he pursued his mission of promoting Olympism in Europe, a mission he so firmly believed in, and worked with such admirable determination to promote,” said EOC Acting President Nygaard. “We salute a big sports leader, remember his smile, and his sense of humour. We mourn him greatly. And we shall remember his wisdom, his dedication, his drive, his dynamism. We shall miss him greatly.”
Recalling his final meeting with his predecessor, Slovenian NOC President Gabrovec said: “In my last visit with him he said to me: ‘I know that sport is for life.’ We will survive, you will survive after I am gone, and I thank you for that.”
Following the ceremony, the delegation paid their last respects to Kocijančič at his grave in the Slovenian capital.
Photo credit: Ales Fevzer ph/ NOC of Slovenia