January 29, 2013

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander is quitting the IOC as he prepares to become king.

"The Prince has asked the president of the IOC to relieve him of his duties as IOC member in the Netherlands," the Dutch government said in a statement Tuesday.

The crown prince, an avid sports fan, has been an International Olympic Committee member since 1998. Known in the IOC as the "Prince of Orange," he currently sits on the marketing commission.

The announcement came a day after Willem-Alexander's mother, Queen Beatrix, announced she is abdicating in the prince's favor on April 30.

IOC President Jacques Rogge called Willem-Alexander "a tremendous asset to the world of sports" and the Olympic committee.

"It is with no small regret that we accept his resignation from the IOC, but we are equally as enthusiastic to wish him well as he enters the next important stage of his life," Rogge said in a statement. "The global sports community is grateful for his contributions over the years and the Olympic Movement will always receive the Crown Prince warmly as a true friend of sport."

Willem-Alexander's resignation from the IOC will be effective from the end of 2013, with the move to be ratified at the IOC general assembly in Buenos Aires in September, the government said.

The IOC said it hopes the prince "will remain close to the organization as an IOC honorary member."

Often dressed in orange T-shirts or winter jackets, Willem-Alexander has been a regular fixture at the Olympics since joining the IOC, cheering on Dutch speedskaters, swimmers and field hockey and volleyball teams.

"We have been very happy with the crown prince as IOC member," Dutch Olympic Committee chief Andre Bolhuis told national broadcaster NOS. "He's been very closely involved with sport and we hope he will remain so in the future."

Willem-Alexander's departure will leave the Netherlands without a member on the IOC.

"We hope and I trust that the IOC will again appoint somebody from the Netherlands," Bolhuis said. "We are a respected and important member of the IOC."

Former Dutch member Hein Verbruggen stepped down from the IOC in 2008 and is now an honorary member. Verbruggen, the former head of international cycling body UCI, remains under scrutiny for his role in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

Another former Dutch member, judo gold medalist Anton Geesink, died in 2010.

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