April 23 - Barry Maister is to step down as the secretary general of the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) to concentrate on his new role as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he announced today.

Maister, who was part of the New Zealand hockey team that won the Olympic gold medals at Montreal in 1976, will officially leave his position on December 31 after nearly 10 years in the role.

He said: "The Olympic environment continues to inspire and motivate me, and I regard my current position as one of the most rewarding and inspiring in New Zealand sport.

"My decision to step down from the NZOC at the end of the year will allow me to move into a more international role with the Olympic Movement.''

Maister, 61, was elected as a full IOC member in February this year, and will remain on the Board of the NZOC in this role.

As an IOC member, he will meet regularly with international heads of sport and decision makers and lobby on behalf of New Zealand athletes.

Maister was recently appointed as a member of the IOC's newly-created Entrourage Commission, which has been established to address matters relating to coaches, trainers and the athletes entourage in general.

NZOC President Mike Stanley said Maister embodied the Olympic Movement.

Stanley said: "He is widely respected both internationally and within the New Zealand sporting community.

"He is an outstanding athlete and administrator and believes in the positive role sport plays in society."

Under Maister, who succeeded Mike Hooper at the NZOC when he became chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation in 2001, New Zealand won three gold medals at the last two Summer Games in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.

At Beijing New Zealand won a total of nine medals, their best performance since Seoul in 1988.

Double Olympic gold medallist Danyon Loader said Maister had provided an important link between sport administration and the athlete.

He said: "Having been an athlete himself, Barry can give insight into their needs in the world of high performance sport.''

New Zealand's Sport and Recreation Minister Murray McCully also praised the contribution of Maister.

He said: "Under Barry Maister's leadership, the NZOC has forged ahead as an effective, sustainable organisation that has given our athletes the best possible support at Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

"Barry has also played an important role in improving coordination between national sports organisations and other key players in the high performance sport area.

"I wish Barry all the best in his new role on the IOC.

"It can only be to New Zealand's advantage to have someone of his ability on such an important body, where he is sure to make a valuable contribution."

The NZOC will begin the process of finding Maister's replacement later this year, a spokeswoman said.

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