Huge Crowds Bid Farewell to Ivan Slavkov 'Bateto' in SofiaSociety | May 5, 2011, Thursday // 15:03| views
Thousands of people formed a huge line in Sofia, wishing to bid last farewell to the late Ivan Slavkov – a flamboyant public figure, athlete and socialite. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency.
A huge crowd gathered Thursday in downtown Sofia to pay last respects to one of Bulgaria's most controversial public figures – athlete and socialite, Ivan Slavkov, aka Bateto (Big Brother).
Bateto died Sunday from pulmonary virus and embolism, only 10 days before his 71st anniversary.
Many hours before the official start of the ceremony at the National "Vasil Levski" stadium, thousands of people, wishing to bid farewell, formed a long line, patiently waiting in the rain. The entrance to the stadium had been sealed by the police.
Official guests included President, Georgi Parvanov, current and former ministers, prominent athletes and coaches, many public figures.
"There is not a single person in Bulgaria, who can say something bad about Ivan – look how many people love him – this turned into e national procession. He was a great friend of mine – an individual generating optimism, making you have only positive thoughts. He was open-minded, with plenty of self-irony, and did not spare criticism to anyone. Bulgaria lost a great citizen with a huge heart," Stefka Kostadinova, world record holder in high jump and Chair of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee, is quoted saying.
Other officials, speaking highly of the late Slavkov, included Parvanov, former Interior Minister and Member of the Parliament from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Rumen Petkov, Ivan Vutsov, former coach of the Bulgarian national football team, (the last two known to have been some of Bateto's closest friends), Culture Minister, Vezhdi Rashidov, and the coach of the national basketball team, Titi Papazov, among others.