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  • Hickey Slams European Games Critics; Three Bids for 2019 Edition -- On the Scene


    Hickey spoke to reporters after a meeting of the IOC and ASOIF in Kuala Lumpur (ATR)
    (ATR) Pat Hickey has attacked Western European nations for criticizing the decision to award the European Games to Baku and their condemnation of Azerbaijan’s poor human rights record.

    “We are sick to death of being lectured by the countries of Western Europe on the values of Olympism and what to do,” the European Olympic chief told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

    “Western Europe think that it’s the European Union of 28 countries. I am the president of 50 countries of Europe and any one of those 50 countries have the right to host a Games without having to answer questions to the rest of Europe,” he added.

    The IOC Executive Board member insisted that criticism of Baku 2015 was uncalled for when Western European nations were not prepared to bid for such multisports events. "If you are not bidding and not hosting you shouldn’t criticize," he said.

    But when asked if legitimate criticism of Azerbaijan’s appalling human rights record was fair, he admitted: “It is fair but why don’t they host a Games. Netherlands failed and they didn’t, so then everyone attacks.

    “We are a continent of 50 nations, not 28 and the European Union and Brussels have lost their way. Greece is the real example. We [the EU] treated them in a despicable manner.”

    "Unfortunately sport in Europe has got embroiled in this geopolitical situation that's going on. You saw at the opening ceremony in Baku none of the western leaders attended except Prince Albert [of Monaco] and the Duke of Luxembourg which was fantastic," he said.

    "This was tit for tat because a few weeks before that at the May Day Parade in Moscow to commemorate the dead of the Second World War none of the Western leaders showed," he said.

    "We are being used by the politicians to play their game. It is huge hypocrisy."

    The Netherlands withdrew from hosting the 2019 edition on the eve of Baku European Games due to lack of government financial support.

    Trio of Bids for 2019 European Games

    Hickey revealed that the European Olympic Committees had already cut in half the field of six cities who last month expressed interest in staging the 2019 European Games.

    “We’re negotiating with three key cities,” Hickey said.

    Hickey rejected the suggestion that his criticism of Western European nations was reflected in the mix of cities vying for the 2019 edition. Minsk, capital of Belarus, and Turkish cities are thought to be among the bidders.

    “We had conversations. Time is not on our side. We have to make a decision before the end of this year. We wanted to establish who was serious and who was not serious,” he said.

    “We are now down to three serious candidates.”

    The trio of bids will continue talks with the EOC through August and September.

    An update on the bidders will be presented at the EOC’s 2015 European Games debrief in Rome Sept. 9-11. The EOC may select its preferred candidate at its executive committee meeting at the end of that month.

    Hickey said he hoped to award the 2019 Games by the end of the year. It must first be presented for approval at an EOC general assembly. The next one takes place in November. "It would be great to have it in Prague," he said.

    Reported in Kuala Lumpur by Mark Bisson

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