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As the First European Games Open in Baku, Will There Ever Be A Second?


June 12th 2015, and the Opening Ceremony of the 1st European Games takes place in Azerbaijan, to much excitement - or did it..?

Well yes, it did. It did take place, in front of nearly 70,000 spectators in the stadium. I watched it live on the event's you tube channel, as TV coverage here for me in the UK was restricted to a channel I don't have.

The BBC was pretty silent about it, as if they'd forgotten it was on, and as for the printed press, well the tabloids had nothing about it at all the next day, and when I say nothing, I mean it. Absolutely nothing.

So, why the lack of coverage, the lack of excitement for such a big event, and why would the 2019 event be in jeopardy?

The lack of coverage can be put down to human rights and the press, I think.

Azerbaijan does not have a good reputation at all when it comes to human rights, and people who challenge or criticise tend to find themselves in jail, journalists included.

If journalists find themselves in jail, or refused entry, then there will be coverage of *that* story in the press, but the appetite for promoting the actual event is unsurprisingly reduced I imagine!

It was hoped to be seen as a massive event, under the banner of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), to finally bring a European equivalent to the well established events like the Pan-American or Asia Games.

6,000 athletes, from 50 countries, over 17 days and 18 event venues - we're not talking about the school sports day here!

With qualification for the Rio Olympics up for grabs, it was hoped that many of the events would be packed with elite athletes. The problem with that, is that many of those elite athletes, particularly in swimming and athletics, do not actually need the European Games as a qualification route, so the rush of elite athletes hasn't happened.

As EOC President Patrick Head handed the historic first gold medal to Switzerland's Jolanda Neff, he has said there is nothing he can do about journalists not being allowed in, as they don't have the power.

Oh yes they do.

The IOC is all powerful when it comes to staging Olympic events. This event comes under the IOC umbrella, and the head of the organising committee is the First Lady of Azerbaijan, so if they wanted to let journalists in, they could, and to say otherwise just sounds a bit silly.

I think another issue is that Azerbaijan was *asked* to host the event, with no other bidders, so that does give Azerbaijan more leeway in which demands they bow down to, because unlike the Olympics, which has countries falling over themselves to do whatever the IOC says, what could the EOC do here - take the event elsewhere, when no-one else was bidding?

As for the 2019 event, what the EOC does not want to hear, a few days before the first staging, is that the hosts of the second staging have pulled out. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened, with the Netherlands citing cost issues as their reason for pulling out.

Pat Head was bullish about this as well, which you'd expect him to be, saying that another host was in place, would be announced soon, and the staging of the 2019 event was not in question.


Throw in the lack of interest from elite athletes in some of the sports, the relationship with the press which provides the lifeblood of these events, publicity, and while at the moment I'd say that sports politics would dictate there will indeed be a second European Games, I'd say that many eyes will be closely monitoring this first!

That's assuming you even knew it was on.

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