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European Games are here - but what will it mean for sport? John Goodbody, journalist, Sunday Times


The inaugural European Games have the backing of the International Olympic Committee and will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan


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ou may not have realised it, but the first European Games are being held in Baku,


Azerbaijan in June and Team GB will be one of 47 countries taking part. One reason why the event might not have impinged on your consciousness is that in many of the sports, the standard is not high. It’s true that several world governing bodies are using the Games as a qualifying competition for the 2016 Olympics. In judo, the European Championships will be staged as part of the Games


after the competition was switched from Glasgow in a row over sponsorship. The athletics event,


however, will be the third league of the European Team Championships, thereby not featuring most of the continent’s most celebrated names while the swimming will consist of the European Junior Championships. Why then have a European Games in what is already a crowded calendar? The answer is that most of


the other continents have had their own quadrennial games for many years, the Pan American and the Asian, for example, since 1951. The reason why there haven’t been multi-sport European Games is that most Olympic sports have had their own individual championships for many years, athletics since 1934 and swimming since 1926. The European Games are


The Baku games are seen as a precursor for an Olympic bid


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the brain child of Patrick Hickey – the Irish president of the European Olympic Committees – and have been backed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and bankrolled by Azerbaijan, which is using the event to promote itself as a destination.


The British Olympic Association sees the event as an opportunity for athletes and officials to familiarise themselves with the demands of a multi-sport event and as a rehearsal for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Mark England, chef de mission of the British team, says: “This is an opportunity to be part of a wonderful celebration of sport and to be on the cusp of a new era.” Already there are plans for a


second European Games to be held in 2019. The significance of that event has already been complicated by the fact that, in 2018, several sports – swimming, rowing, cycling and triathlon – are planning to hold their European Championships together in Glasgow, while the athletics championships will be held at the same time in Berlin. It may seem sensible


to have several European championships in different sports at the same venue and the same time but, unless there is careful scheduling, it would restrict the television audiences to the detriment of the sports themselves. TV companies like to have these events held at different times and not clashing with popular continental events, such as the Wimbledon


Championships, the Tour de France and the European Champions League. So where does the proposed


2019 European Games fit into all this? No one really seems to know and that includes Sven- Arne Hansen, the president of the European Athletics Association, who is eager to talk to Hickey about the part that his sport, the central one of the Olympic programme, will play in any future Games. There needs to be some serious talking about the confusion that is currently confronting European sports and their programmes in the immediate future. For athletics it may well be that the European Team Championship, encompassing the leading nations, could be part of future European Games but other continental organisations will have to look carefully at how they can benefit from their future participation. As Andre Bolhuis, the


President of the Dutch Olympic Committee, said in considering whether his country could host the 2019 Games: ”We want guarantees from international federations that it’ll be an elite event.” • To read more about Baku and the Games, see p. 38.


sportsmanagement.co.uk issue 2 2015 © Cybertrek 2015


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