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  • EOC Seeks Alternative to Russia for 2019 European Games


    (ATR) Around the Rings has learned that the EOC will accelerate discussions with other potential European Games hosts – but has not completely shut the door on Russia.

    Dignitaries at the inaugural Euro Games included EOC chief Patrick Hickey(l), IOC pres. Thomas Bach (c) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (r). (Getty Images)
    An IOC ruling on Tuesday appeared to kill off any slim hopes Russia still harbored of hosting the second edition of the European Olympic Committee's flagship multisport event. Reacting to the McLaren report that revealed evidence of state-sponsored doping, the IOC said it "will not organise or give patronage" to any sports event or meeting in Russia. The provisional measure will be reviewed at the IOC executive board’s December meeting.

    Sources tell ATR the only way a Russia European Games could possibly go ahead – or would even be tolerated by the Olympic movement – is if the IOC lifted its temporary ban and backed plans to make the 2019 event "the first big demonstration of a new model of anti-doping in Russia meeting the highest international standards".

    The EOC has maintained Russia’s preferred bidding status since November, with plans to host the 2019 European showpiece in Sochi and Kazan, despite the IAAF ban on Russian athletics from the Rio Games and the subsequent fall-out.

    But with Russia virtually out of the picture, EOC president Pat Hickey and his executive board are now set to intensify talks with several other potential candidates for the Games.

    In a statement last night, the EOC acknowledged the temporary withdrawal of the IOC’s patronage for a European Games in Russia. The European body said it would continue to monitor the situation “whilst also maintaining ongoing discussions with other potential host cities”.

    European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen tells ATR he favors awarding the Games to another country.

    “I think that EOC should find another alternative than Russia for the 2019 Games,” he said. “I am in regular contact with Pat Hickey and I am confident that he and his team will find a venue where we take part with an athletics event during the 2019 Games.”

    With the EOC hopeful of bringing a much larger athletics event to the 2019 Games than was the case at the Baku event, heeding the views of Hansen and other European federations will help inform discussions with potential host nations.

    If the IOC removed its provisional suspension and allowed the EOC to take the Games to Russia, in the unlikely event that no other suitable host nation is found, Hansen would have no problem supporting the plan.

    "If the Russians are serious about cleaning sport and creating a strong and robust anti-doping culture as soon as possible, then I think hosting the European Games in Russia in 2019 would be a very strong showcase for clean sport and a window to a new transparent future for sport in Russia," he told ATR.

    An update on the 2019 European Games will come at the EOC executive committee meeting on July 30.

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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