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  • Bus Accident Leads to Baku 2015 Transport Review -- On the Scene


    Baku 2015 director of comms Colin Gibson, COO Simon Clegg and karate chief Antonio Espinos at Sunday's briefing (ATR)
    (ATR) Baku 2015 organisers have revised their transport policy in the wake of the bus collision which injured three Austrian swimmers.

    The bus driver, Veli Ahmadov, has been arrested after the bus collision Thursday, the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry said in a statement.

    Baku 2015 chief operating officer Simon Clegg told a press conference Sunday that Games organizers had launched an immediate review of transportation malls in the athletes’ and media villages and venues.

    He said more water-filled and concrete bollards had been put in place in these areas in a bid to prevent a repeat of the tragedy. Vanessa Sahinovic, 15, suffered multiple fractures in the accident and required surgery back in Vienna. She may be permanently paralysed.

    Clegg said all bus drivers and those in charge of other vehicles at the Games had been “advised of the situation” and told “to follow clear instructions” on the venue transportation policy, which includes calls for more cautious driving.

    He urged any athletes, officials or media with concerns relating to transport, whether on the buses or the TX system of using white taxis, to report them to Baku 2015.

    Bach on Unifying Power of Sport

    In his first comments at the European Games, the IOC president spoke about the power of sport to unite people. Amid the ongoing Russia and Ukraine conflict and political tensions between the host nation and Armenia, there is much talk about the prospect of flashpoints in confrontations on the field of play.

    Bach expressed his satisfaction with the harmonious relations between the 50 participating nations.

    "We see Russian athletes competing alongside Ukrainians. There are Serbian and Kosovan teams in these Games, and we see Armenian athletes alongside their hosts from Azerbaijan. All these athletes marched together at the opening ceremony," Bach told reporters in Baku Sunday before leaving Azerbaijan for a three-nation tour of Central Asia.

    "This is the power of sport to bring people together regardless of background, belief or nationality. This is something that sport can do, and maybe something that only sport can do."

    Ticketing Issues

    Clegg reported that 17,044 spectators attended 19 sessions at seven different venues on Saturday, the first full day of competition. While he said there were good levels of attendance at the velopark where the first medals were awarded and other venues, a few issues cropped up at volleyball.

    “Volleyball overran significantly,” he admitted, saying that organizers had foreseen this and deployed their contingency plan. Additional buses were dispatched to take spectators back to the city.

    Asked by ATR why the Crystal Hall was only half full for a women’s volleyball game featuring the host nation and Romania, Clegg said the problem of empty seats was “obviously an issue with tickets being given to sponsors”.

    There were plenty of empty seats at table tennis and water polo Sunday (ATR)
    is a challenge that any international event has on day one and two of competition as the system starts to bed down,” he said. “I recognize that some sports are more popular and some less in Azerbaijan,” he added, remarking on badminton and table tennis.

    For the morning table tennis sessions on Sunday at Baku Sports Hall, the venue was only about one-quarter full. ATR was also at the temporary women's water polo venue adjacent to the aquatics centre, where again there were swathes of empty seats.

    Clegg said ticket sales had gone “generally extremely well”. As of last week, Games organizers had racked up more than $1.9 million worth of sales. But he said Azerbaijan did not have a track record of people paying for tickets for sports events apart from football matches.

    Unlike London 2012 where school children and military personnel used for games security were brought into venues to fill empty seats, there is no such plan for the European Games – at the moment. With
    Baku Sports Hall is the venue for table tennis (ATR)
    Monday being a public holiday – National Salvation Day – he said Baku 2015 was expecting “a significant increase in demand for last-minute tickets”.

    Azerbaijan Hit Gold

    Clegg said he was “delighted” with the achievements of Azerbaijan’s team on Saturday; the host nation claimed three golds and seven medals in total placing second in the medals table overnight. “The success of the host nation early in the games is a very important component of delivering a successful games,” he said.

    Karate Presses Olympic Credentials

    World Karate president Antonio Espinos, who also appeared at the media briefing, said Saturday had been a “big day” for his sport.

    He emphasized that the European Games showcase for karate had helped in its quest for Olympic inclusion, coming a few days after Tokyo 2020 revealed that 26 federations had submitted bids to join the games. IOC president Thomas Bach, Olympic Council of Asia chief Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah and IOC sports director Kit McConnell were among the Olympic movers and shakers in attendance.

    Espinos told reporters that displaying karate’s world-class fighters to “decision-makers in the Olympic Movement” was an important moment in the sport's Olympic campaign. “We don’t have so many opportunities to show them our sports and how we have been developing along the years and to show the sport and federation is ready to be an Olympic sport,” he said.

    Commenting on Azerbaijan’s Rafael Aghayev, dubbed the 'Maradona of karate', who won the men's 75kg kumite and lit up the games on Saturday, he said: “He is a legend not only in the karate community but out of it. He is a real ambassador.”

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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