By Duncan Mackay

Joao Havelange_Soccerex_Rio_November_2011December 5 - Joao Havelange's position as a "legend" and "icon" remains unaffected by his decision to resign from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to avoid corruption charges, the head of Rio 2016 claimed today.

As reported on insidethegames yesterday, the 95-year-old former President of FIFA decided to step down from the IOC after 48 years as a member rather than face the prospect of being sanctioned for his alleged role in a bribery scandal stemming from his time as the head of football's world governing body.

"The IOC confirms that it has received the resignation letter from Mr Joao Havelange as IOC member," said the IOC in a statement.

But Leonardo Gryner, the chief executive of Rio 2016, today refused to condemn Havelange, who had played a leading role in the Brazilian city's successful bid in 2009 to become the first South American city to be chosen to host the Olympics and Paralympics.

"We are proud we had Joao with us," said Gryner.

"He is a legend and an icon in the world sports movement - that does not change.

"He's a great man, who worked hard for our project [Rio 2016].

"He lent his support and was extremely instrumental during our bid.

"His presence in Copenhagen [at the IOC Session in 2009] and his speech were important elements for our bid.

"We are proud to have had him in our campaign.

"I think other cities would love to have had him beside them and their bid committee.

"He is a man all Brazilians should be proud of."

Joao Havelange_with_Jacques_Rogge_December_2010

The IOC Ethics Commission had began an inquiry into allegations broadcast on BBC's Panorama in November 2010 that Havelange (pictured above with IOC President Jacques Rogge) received $1 million (£639 million/€746 million) from marketing agency ISL, which owned World Cup television rights and collapsed with debts of $300 million (£192 million/€224 million) in 2001.

Havelange, the IOC's longest serving member having joined in 1963, faced the prospect of a two-year suspension or even expulsion when the Executive Board met in Lausanne on Thursday (December 8) to consider the report from the Ethics Commission.

He decided instead to step down - citing health reasons - which meant that under the rules of the IOC the investigation was dropped. 

The decision of Havelange to resign from the IOC had first been confirmed by FIFA earlier today.

Havelange was succeeded as FIFA President in 1998 after 24 years at the top by Sepp Blatter but remains Honorary President.

"FIFA has taken note of Joao Havelange's resignation as IOC Member and the fact that the IOC has closed the case accordingly," FIFA said in a statement.

"Regarding FIFA matters, it is important to note that Joao Havelange was appointed Honorary President by the FIFA Congress on June 8, 1998.

"FIFA cannot speculate on any decisions made by Mr Havelange."

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