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  • European Games Nears Finish Line -- On the Scene


    Once packed, athletes and officials have begun departing the athletes' village (ATR)
    (ATR) The inaugural European Games in Baku are nearing the finish line with nine of the original 20 sports still hosting competition and four days to go.

    Perhaps the most telling evidence is that the athletes' village is currently occupied by 3,717 athletes and officials, down from its 5,700 peak on June 20.

    Entering day 13 of competition, 21 medals are on the line in swimming, fencing, boxing and judo. So far, 173 European Games champions have been crowned.

    Russia leads the medal tally with 109, including 51 gold. Azerbaijan and Germany are tied for second with 40 in total, although there have been allegations, particularly in gymnastics, that judges have shown favoritism towards the home nation.

    Highlights on the sports program for Thursday include the first day of boxing finals at Crystal Hall, judo’s debut, the continuation of the youth-oriented sports - three-on-three basketball and beach soccer - and a highly-anticipated volleyball semi-final between Azerbaijan and Turkey.

    BMX cycling is the only sport on the program which has not already started. Riders begin three days of competition at the Mountain Bike Velopark northwest of the city center on Friday.

    Theft at Village

    On Thursday it emerged that a large quantity of food and water was stolen from the athletes' village. Authorities have reportedly obtained the license plate of a vehicle thought to be involved.

    Addressing reporters at a Thursday news conference, Baku 2015 chief operating officer Simon
    Five boxing gold medals are on the card for Thursday (ATR)
    Clegg said organizers were aware of the incident and investigating it.

    On a more positive note, Clegg complimented the approximate 10,000 volunteers who have worked through 13 hot days of the Games.

    “Flame-keepers have had an incredibly positive contribution to all international visitors,” Clegg said referring to the efforts of the Baku volunteers.

    Clegg said website hits on were still on the rise: “Yesterday, we had 4.6 million website page views, up 23 percent from the previous day."

    Although the Games have been widely considered an organizational success, and athletes have conveyed mostly positive feedback about their experiences, the multisports event has been marred by two serious road accidents.

    A British national working with the ceremonies team was killed and three others were injured in a road accident in the city on Tuesday. On the eve of the opening ceremony, three Austrian synchronized swimmers were hit by a bus in the athletes' village. One of them was left with severe spinal injuries.

    The closing ceremony on Sunday at Baku’s national stadium is a sell-out. 

    “There are no seats available,” said Clegg. “We encourage those who want to be part of the celebration to go down to the boulevard and watch on the big screens.”

    Reported in Baku by Brian Pinelli

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