LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Janez Kocijancic, Slovenia's leading sports official for decades, died on Monday. He was 78.
The European Olympic Committees, of which Kocijancic was the ruling president, said without elaborating that he died after "a sudden and severe disease" in Ljubljana.
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.
Kocijancic was active in politics. He was 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 Kocijancic, a prominent figure in Slovenian political and sports life."
Tanja Fajon, the interim president of the Social Democrats party, paid tribute to Kocijancic 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."
Kocijancic 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 in France.
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."
Kocijancic is survived by wife, Andreja, and two children.