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  • Baku Coasts to Easy Finish


    Sports minister and Baku 2015 CEO Azad Rahimov. (ATR)
    (ATR) With two days left in the inaugural European Games European Games the question seems to be what’s next for Baku?

    Barring any unforeseen disaster in the closing hours, the smooth staging of this event awarded just over two years ago to Baku is elevating belief in Azerbaijan that a third Olympic bid should be considered.

    Questions about whether Baku should bid were in the majority when reporters held a roundtable briefing with Azad Rahimov, Azeri sports minister and Baku 2015 CEO and Ali Hasanov, a representative of the Azerbaijan presidential office. Both indicated that the European Games will be evaluated as the government considers whether to launch a bid for 2024, deadline September 15.

    Rahimov says with 2 ½ months till that deadline there will be time for Baku to participate in the consultation phase of the bid process that the IOC has launched for prospective cities. For the 2024 race, every one of the five cities that have declared their intentions have traveled to Lausanne. The sessions between IOC staff in the bid teams have been described as helpful, allowing the visitors to receive candid assessments and suggestions from the IOC experts.

    Rahimov says Baku has been a bit preoccupied getting ready for the European Games. Once the event is over analysis will begin immediately he says. With the deadline more than two months away Rahimov says there is time to make a decision.

    Baku A Smooth Operator

    Traffic movement across the city is the most fluid this reporter has ever experienced in a half dozen plus visits. The few traffic jams encountered often deal with roadblocks to allow passage of the motorcade for the president of Azerbaijan and his entourage.

    Otherwise, limits on cars and the completion of new roadworks have kept transportation issues to a minimum for the Baku organizers. Chief operating officer Simon Clegg says on-time performance of the transportation system is in excess of 90 percent.

    Also a factor is the relatively low spectator load on the city from these games. Clegg reported at the Saturday morning press briefing that 23,000 spectators attended events across the day Friday at nine venues. The schedule for Saturday includes 27 medal rounds in six events. Boxing, judo and volleyball are expected to be the big draws. Sunday medal events on the final day include judo and blind judo, beach soccer, BMX and volleyball.

    Doubts Over for Games
    Michael Vesper of the DOSB at swimming.

    Spyros Capralos, president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee and the head of the EOC coordination commission for Baku tells Around the Rings that the European Games have won converts.

    “The athletes love them. The federations love them and so do the NOCs”, he said at the aquatic center shortly before medal ceremony duties.

    Germany’s Michael Vesper admits “we had doubts” about whether the European Games would work. The DOSB secretary general tells ATR Baku is providing “great experience for our athletes”.

    But while enthusiasm is high within the EOC, there is still no host for the 2019 edition as the curtain comes down in Baku. EOC president Patrick Hickey will likely field questions aplenty about 2019 when he meets the press Sunday to review the inaugural games.

    Clegg Not Ready to Go Yet

    Clegg in his office at Baku 2015. (ATR)
    The briefing by Clegg was the last of these daily sessions for him. In response to a question about his future, Clegg acknowledged “the important role Azerbaijan has played in my life” but demurred any further on whether he would stick around to help with future projects. He says a holiday is ahead after the games.

    Clegg tells Around the Rings that he will be on the job in Baku through August to make sure all comes to a organized close. 

    Clegg, from England, came aboard last year as COO after the resignation of American executive Jim Scherr. Clegg is a former secretary general of the British Olympic Association and was a consultant for the European Olympic Committees on matters relating to Baku 2015.

    Baku Hospitality Centers

    Whether winter or summer Olympics, Italian NOC CONI always welcomes its athletes and visitors with the hospitality of a Casa Italia. The European
    The European Club. (ATR)
    Games in Baku continue that tradition, though on a smaller scale than the Olympics.

    CONI took over a ballroom on the second floor of the Radisson Park Inn Hotel. Since June 12 the pasta has flowed and fortified athletes and guests every night. The Italian team is the third biggest in Baku with more than 230 athletes.

    But the premier hospitality site in Baku was operated by the EOC in two adjacent buildings along the shore of the Caspian Sea. Known in Baku as Little Venice, the venue is surrounded by a canal and each building has a rooftop terrace
    The Tokyo 2020 team at the Fairmont in Baku.(ATR)

    Serving food and beverage throughout the day, the refuge is open to European NOC leaders, sponsors and invited guests.

    Tokyo in Baku

    The NOC relations department of Tokyo 2020 is obviously eager to get started with its work with Europe. Two staff members from Tokyo have spent the past couple of weeks at a small table in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, headquarters for the European Olympic Committees. Publications and materials are aimed at helping NOCs select sites for training camps.

    Marius Vizer Returns to Judo Roots
    Marius Vizer presents medals at judo. (ATR)

    After the disaster of SportAccord two months ago that led to the resignation of Marius Vizer as president, he stepped back into the public eye this week in Baku. Still the president of the International Judo Federation, Vizer presented medals at the competition at the Haydar Aliyev Arena. He has not responded to several requests for an interview.

    Written and reported in Baku by Ed Hula.

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