Baku to host inaugural European Games
The Azerbaijan capital Baku will host the inaugural European Games in 2015 it was announced in Rome on Saturday after a motion to hold the continental Games was passed by a general assembly of the 49-member European Olympic Committees (EOC).
The brainchild of EOC president Pat Hickey, who came up with the idea three years ago, he told AFP that the new event was not intended to be a rival to the Olympic Games.
"It is in no way meant to rival the Olympic Games," said the Irishman by phone from Rome.
"I am delighted and thrilled that this dream has come about. A lot of people scoffed at the idea when I first brought it up three years ago.
"However, a new baby has been born and it is important that it be nurtured and protected and is a success."
The vote on the package - delegates were asked to vote both on the Games and the hosts being Baku - was easily carried with 38 voting for, eight against, two abstentions and one not voting atall.
The Games - whose exact dates are yet to be fixed - will have around 15 sports on its programme and will, according to the EOC, not cost their member nations any money to compete in.
"The NOCs have received assurance that the event will not cost them a penny, but bring them financial gains," the EOC website statement said.
Hickey, whose rise up the administrative ranks was franked in July when he was elected onto the International Olympic Committee (IOC) elite Executive Board, told AFP that most of the sports had already been decided upon.
"Boxing and swimming are definites, while we are still in talks over track and field" said Hickey, who pointed out that the first Olympic Games featured just six sports and the first Asian Games eight.
"There will be two non Olympic sports including dance. We have taken note that all across Europe the big draws on TV are dance programmes which invariably involves an athlete. There will be different styles included such as hip hop."
Spanish NOC president Alejandro Blanco welcomed the announcement.
"As a member of the Executive Committee of the European Olympic Committees I have been very closely involved in this project. Europe is the only continent without their own Games.
"More and more sports want to take part. We continually receive requests from federations who want to be included. The first Games will feature 15 disciplines.
"This decision opens the way for smaller cities to put themselves forward as hosts of the event in the future, and even, the Olympic Games themselves. Why not?
"We are sure that Baku will organise excellent Games."
The contract was signed by Hickey, EOC Secretary General Raffaele Pagnozzi, Azerbaijan's Minister of Youth and Sport Azad Rahimov, and the vice president of the NOC of Azerbaijan, Chingiz Huseynzada.
It is some consolation for Baku as they were candidates to host the 2020 Olympic Games but failed to make the short list when it was voted on earlier this year by the International Olympic Committee Executive Board.