November 23 - Deep divisions have emerged in the relationship between Mario Vazquez Raña, President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), and Europe, who want him to step down.

Patrick Hickey, President of the European Olymic Committees (EOC), used his opening address at the organisation's 40th General Assembly here to express his dissatisfaction at the Mexican's leadership of ANOC, the umbrella organisation of the world's National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

"ANOC is in the situation at the moment where there seems to be perpetual conflict between the international federations and NOCs," Hickey told insidethegames.

"Many of the NOCs in the room here are deeply unhappy at the leadership of ANOC at addressing all these problems."

ANOC was founded in 1979 and under Raña has grown from 144 members to 205.

But the belief among many of the 49 countries of the EOC is that it has lost its way.

"They were not very enthused at the last ANOC General Assembly in Acapaulco," said Hickey.

It is claimed that the behaviour of Raña, who also heads Olympic Solidarity, the IOC programme that distributes nearly $400 million (£257 million/€299 million) to NOCs around the globe, has become increasingly erratic in recent months.

There is particular anger about an incident last month in Guadalajara on the eve of the Pan American Games where Raña allegedly publicly humilated Christophe De Kepper, the director general of the IOC.

It followed the failure of the IOC President Jacques Rogge to attend the final day of the Pan American Sports Organization Assembly after he had changed his travel plans because Raña had originally cancelled it before changing his mind.

Raña, a billionaire who is the President and director general of Organización Editorial Mexicana, the largest newspaper company in Latin America, is currently due to continue as the head of ANOC until 2014.

But pressure on him to step down is set to intensify when the ANOC Executive Board holds its next meeting in Lausanne on December 6.

There they will discuss who should replace Raña as ANOC's representative on the IOC's ruling Executive Board when his current mandate ends at the Session in London next July.

He ceases to be a member of the IOC at the end of 2012 because he will have reached the compulsory retirement age of 80 and attempts by him to negotiate with Rogge a special dispensation to be allowed to continue beyond have fallen on deaf ears.

The favourite to succeed Raña on the Executive Board is Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, President of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

Hickey is scheduled to travel from here to Dubai to meet Al-Sabah to discuss their strategy, insidethegames understands.

"I'm in constant contact with my colleagues in the other continents to find a solution to this because we should all be playing on the one team," said Hickey.

By Duncan Mackay