By Duncan Mackay

Pietro Mennea Helsinki 1983March 21 - Italy's Pietro Mennea, the Moscow 1980 Olympic 200 metres champion and former world record holder, has died at the age of 60. 

He had been suffering from tumour and died in a hospital in Rome.

"Italian sport is in mourning," said CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee, in a statement on its website.

"We are tearful and emotional after Pietro Mennea died in a Roman clinic this morning following a long-term illness.

"The sprinter, who won a gold medal in the 200m at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow and defended the world record at that distance for more than 16 years, was born in Barletta on June 28, 1952."

Mennea had claimed the Olympic title in Moscow following a photo-finish with Britain's Allan Wells, who earlier in the Games had won the 100m title in an event boycotted by the Americans in protest over the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan.

Pietro Mennea wins 200m Moscow 1980Pietro Mennea pips Britain's Allan Wells on the line to win the Olympic 200m at Moscow 1980

The previous year Mennea had set a time of 19.72sec in the 200m, which stood for 17 years until Michael Johnson broke it in 1996.

But the mark remains the European record over the distance.

Mennea also won two Olympic bronze medals, in the 200m at Munich 1972 and in the 4x100m relay in Moscow, and three European titles, including the 100m and 200m double at Prague in 1978.

After his career ended Mennea served for five years as a member of the European Parliament between 1999 and 2004, representing The Democrats 

But last year he found himself at the centre of controversy last year when he opposed Rome's bid to mount a bid for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

Mennea had claimed that Italy was a country "devastated by a scary economic crisis" and that Rome should wait to bid instead for the 2024 Games.

He was criticised by several other leading Italian Olympians, including Jury Chechi, the 1996 Olympic rings champion, who wrote an open letter to newspaper Corriere Della Sera criticising him. 

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