A memorial ceremony for Janez Kocijančič was held in Ljubljana ©Ales Fevzer ph/ NOC of Slovenia

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach was among the attendees at a ceremony to celebrate the life of late European Olympic Committees (EOC) President Janez Kocijančič.

Kocijančič died at the age of 78 in June following illness.

The Slovenian was a long-term official at the EOC, having joined the Executive Board in 2005.

He later served as EOC vice-president from 2013 to 2016, before taking on the Acting President role following the suspension of Patrick Hickey.

Kocijančič was elected EOC President unopposed in 2017.

A ceremony was held at the Grand Hotel Union in Ljubljana to commemorate Kocijančič’s life, with his wife Andreja and daughter Nike present.

Speaking at the event, Bach described Kocijančič as a valuable advisor and supporter of using sport for education and social values.

"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," Bach said.

"Or as they would say now, against any form of discrimination.

"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.

"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."

Thomas Bach described Janez Kocijančič as a valuable advisor and supporter of using sport for education and social values ©Ales Fevzer ph/ NOC of Slovenia
Thomas Bach described Janez Kocijančič as a valuable advisor and supporter of using sport for education and social values ©Ales Fevzer ph/ NOC of Slovenia

Kocijančič was posthumously awarded the EOC Order of Merit at the ceremony, with the organisation saying the honour recognised his outstanding contribution to the cause of European sport and his faithfulness to the Olympic ideals.

EOC Executive Committee member Zlatko Matesa presented the Order to Kocijančič’s wife and daughter, together with Bach, EOC Acting President Niels Nygaard, EOC secretary general Raffaele Pagnozzi and acting EOC treasurer Peter Mennel.

Slovenia's Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Simona Kustec, and Bogdan Gabrovec, the President of the Olympic Committee of Slovenia Association of Sports Federations, were also present.

"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 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."

Kocijančič's Presidency included the second edition of the European Games, which were held in Belarus' capital Minsk last year.

The Slovenian also oversaw the awarding of the 2023 European Games to Kraków in Poland.

Kocjančič served as the first President of the Slovenian Olympic Committee after the organisation was founded following the country's independence. 

He held the role from 1991 to 2014.

Kocijančič was heavily involved in skiing, having served from 1974 to 1984 as President of the Ski Association of Slovenia, before holding the same post at the Ski Association of Yugoslavia until 1988.

Since 1981 he had served as an Executive Board member at the International Ski Federation, becoming vice-president from 2010.

The memorial ceremony was among the events attended by Bach in Slovenia.

The IOC President met Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša in Ljubljana, where they discussed the importance of the European sports model and how sport is part of the solution to the COVID-19 crisis.

Bach also met with athletes and Olympic hopefuls in Ljubljana, and took part in a question and answer session at a canoe slalom training facility in the capital city.

At total of 40 athletes participated from the sports of athletics, judo, taekwondo, canoeing, sailing, handball and table tennis.

Bach ended his visit by attending a fund-raising event for a sports foundation for underprivileged children.