INTERVIEW. SERGEY KHOMICH: NEW TRADITIONS TO BE FORMED AT EUROPEAN GAMES IN MINSK
APRIL 04 2019
The staff of the Ceremonies and Cultural Program at the Minsk European Games Organizing Committee (MEGOC) will be among the first to participate in events that are directly related to the multi-sport Games in Minsk. However, the first events of this kind will not take place in Belarus, but in Rome with the lighting of the European Games flame on May 3. The consequent torch relay “Flame of Peace” will pass through the territories of Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Poland, wrapping up in Belarus. The relay is at the origins of one of the main traditions of the European Games and is an important reflection of the sporting values of the Games. We spoke with the Head of Ceremonies and Cultural Program at MEGOC Sergey Khomich about the distinctive features of the torch relay and the traditions that are being formed during the second major multi-sport event of the European continent.
- The torch relay is a traditional event held as part of the Olympic Games. The analogous tradition is still in its infancy at the European Games, but at the 1st European Games there was also a torch relay, which took place only on the territory of the host country. The upcoming relay will be different thanks to, as it appears to me, its greater magnitude and significance.
In general, many traditions of the European Games are still being formed. It is nice to realise that we stand at the origins of traditions, which will become familiar in 20 to 30 years. Everyone will repeat them when they hold similar competitions. But we are the ones laying their foundation.
How will the torch relay look?
- When the Organizing Committee was planning how to carry it out, there were a lot of discussions with the European Olympic Committees (EOC). It was decided that the torch relay should start in Rome, where the EOC headquarters are located. The idea is that the torch relay will start here in all the future European Games.
There will be a big ceremony of lighting the fire in the Eternal City on May 3 for the Games in Minsk. The Ara Pacis Museum complex will be the venue for the ceremony. It is the place where the Arch of Peace is located - a monument of architecture that is more than 2,000 years old. As part of the ceremony, the symbolic olive tree will be presented and the first torch of the torch relay of the 2nd European Games will be lit. The olive tree is made specifically for the EOC. It extends its roots into the depths of time and raises its branches to welcome athletes of 50 nations. It is symbolic that the torch relay will span 50 days. In the first days the flame will be in Italy. It will be taken to the town of Courmayeur (Valle d’Aosta region) on the border of Italy and France. The highest point in Europe - Mont Blanc - is located nearby. The flame and the flag of the 2nd European Games, as well as the national flag of Belarus, will be raised to this peak by Belarusian mountain climbers, among which are several conquerors of Mount Everest!
Later members of the biker club “The One Chapter Belarus” will escort the “Flame of Peace” to Belarus through several European countries, including Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Poland. During the procession of the motorcade through Europe, each motorcycle will display the national flag of Belarus and the flag of the relay. The relay caravan will visit all the National Olympic Committees of the countries listed above. It is nice that the NOCs are responding with great interest to our initiative and are meeting us halfway. By the way, Belarusian bikers will leave Minsk for Rome on April 28. Naturally, there are some creative plans that the climbers and bikers want to keep a secret for now.
Meanwhile, the organisers are aiming to carry out a nationwide torch relay that would draw in the great possible number of Belarusians, and also help to raise their patriotic spirit in support of athletes of the national teams at the 2nd European Games. Another important task is to showcase the extraordinary country that is Belarus - its nature, historical heritage, achievements, people, and to present the regions of the country in the most interesting way in terms of their tourist potential.
What are the fundamental differences between our torch relay and the one held at the 1st European Games?
- Once again, I emphasise that the relay race was held only in the host country, and the flame of those Games was also lit in Azerbaijan. We have a different site for lighting the flame, and a name - “Flame of Peace”. Scaling the summit of Mont Blanc with the flame is also a unique event. Moreover, for the first time we will make a long journey through Europe, including the capitals of those countries that will the torch relay will visit. For us, this is a way to promote and advertise the European Games, as well as another opportunity to talk about the competitions to take place in Minsk, invite tourists and sports fans. By the way, one of the main symbols of the relay, the torch, will be presented in Belarus soon.
Let's talk about the Belarusian stage of the relay...
- The torch relay on the territory of our country will begin in Brest. In each region, the relay will be six days long and each regional stage will kick off with a gala concert. The relay route will be as close as possible to the most iconic structures and places in the regions.
In Minsk, the relay will be held from June 17 to 21. At this time, the flame will be transported along the central avenues (Pobediteley, Nezavisimosti). It will also visit several Minsk enterprises, parks and tourist sites in the capital. The relay will come to a stop at the Dynamo National Olympic Stadium, a legendary arena where the 2nd European Games cauldron will be lit during the Opening Ceremony on June 21.
The country’s best athletes, well-known experts and prominent figures from science, culture and the arts, will be among the 450 torchbearers who take part in the torch relay in Belarus.
Can we lift the veil of secrecy? How will the cauldron be lit during the Games Opening Ceremony?
- We already know who will light the flame - seven torchbearers will do it simultaneously. The names are determined, but the rest will remain a secret. A very unusual and technological approach will be used to light the flame and this is another reason to attend the Opening Ceremony in person.
What are the main events in the cultural program of the 2nd European Games?
- There is information on the website where we talked in detail about interesting events, such as historical fencing. As we see it, the cultural program is the atmosphere in which sports competitions take place.
The cultural program will start on May 1 and will run until the end of June. According to tradition, it will be extensive and aimed to acquaint the large number of experts and athletes who will come to the Games with the history and culture of our country. There will be displays, museum exhibitions and theatrical performances, and not just those that were planned earlier, but also those that are being prepared specifically for the 2nd European Games. Fan zones will be operational for 12 days during the Games. These hospitality zones were already tested at the 2014 World Hockey Championships, and this was a very positive experience. Many European embassies have already confirmed their intention to participate in the cultural and entertainment programs in the fan zones.
The main fan zone by the Palace of Sports will be the first to open - from 19 June. The other two, at Minsk-Arena and Chizhovka-Arena, will start working when the Games open - June 21. In the regional centres, as well as in Bobruisk and Molodechno, fan zones will also start working from June 21.
The main approach to the cultural program is already clear, but if there is an opportunity to improve something, we are ready to do so. Besides, there is still time for that.
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