(ATR) It was an early Sunday morning wake-up call for presidents and executive committee members of the European Olympic Committees, but for good cause.
Early morning flight for EOC delegation (ATR)
The mission – travel swiftly and efficiently from the Belarusian capital, currently hosting the ongoing European Games, to Geneva and ultimately Lausanne for the official inauguration of the IOC’s new headquarters – Olympic House.
The EOC leaders gazed at an absolutely magnificent sunrise as they departed the Marriott Hotel in Minsk via bus at 4:30 a.m. bound for the airport.
Despite a departure time even too early for roosters, the EOC leaders were chipper, jovial and highly enthusiastic with a very exciting day ahead.
Upon reaching Minsk National Airport, the Olympic family leaders were invited into a comfortable lounge, while asked to hand over all passports to the Belarusian immigration officials. This is where the playful joking began.
Greek NOC president and future IOC member Spyros Capralos unofficially informed his friends: “whoever doesn’t get their passport back has to go back to the hotel.”
EOC president Janez Kocijancic and Minsk 2019 president George Katulin on plane (ATR)
Fortunately for the diverse array of NOC presidents, Minsk 2019 organizing committee president George Katulin joined the trip to ensure everything would go smoothly. European Olympic Committees president Janez Kocijancic also took charge, caring for his Olympic family and offering Slovenian hospitality, albeit in Belarus, so the group was confident that they were in good hands.
Coffee and early morning banter enhanced the collective mood and spirit.
Ukraine NOC president and pole vault legend Sergey Bubka reminisced about his days soaring through the air at competitions in Minsk, along with a fellow pole vaulter also ready to take flight.
Just past 6 a.m. and with the passports still in the hands of the Belarusian authorities, Austrian NOC secretary general Peter Mennel announced: “boarding closed one hour ago".
Finally, an official with the European passports arrived as Katulin and Kocijancic worked diligently and cohesively together – as they’ve also done so well to launch these second European Games – to help distribute the documents to the right presidents.
After a quick bus ride, the Belavia Embraer 175 charter plane was cleared for take-off.
Climbing the steps of the plane Kapralos joked with Polish NOC president Andrzej Kransicki advising that there needs to be a stop in Krakow, so that a not yet established evaluation commission team for Poland, which was just awarded the third edition of the European Games the previous day, could eagerly start its work.
The jet soared into a pleasant Belarusian morning sky at 6:42 a.m. with 35 esteemed passengers onboard. The sport leaders were taken care of by friendly flight attendants attired in track suits and warm-ups, in honor of the athletes competing at the European Games.
EOC delegation from Minsk arrives in Geneva. (ATR)
An announcement rang out welcoming the group to Minsk and the Games. “We wish the sportsman good luck and bright memories,” the flight attendant added.
Shortly thereafter, it was lights out and a well-deserved snooze for many of the hard-working and well-dressed group, all of whom celebrated a festive opening ceremony on Friday evening courtesy of the passionate and determined Belarusian hosts.
A short while later as a warming aroma quickly permeated the cabin, the important world sport decision makers were forced to make their most difficult decision of the young day – chicken or beef?
The Belavia charter touched down in Geneva at 9:17a.m., completing the 1,775-kilometer journey in just over two-and-a-half hours.
“It is early, but on the other hand to be part of this big event in Lausanne, we are willing to get up very early to be there,” said Danish NOC president and EOC vice-president Niels Nygaard. “We had a grand opening of the European Games, it’s going very well in Minsk, so we are happy to all be together.”
After an important photo op at the foot of the plane, it was onwards to Lausanne for what was sure to be a spectacular day – the official opening of the splendid-looking new IOC headquarters on the 125th birthday of the creation of the IOC by Pierre de Coubertin, and naturally all taking place on Olympic Day.
Written and reported by Brian Pinelli in Minsk and Geneva
For general comments or questions, click here.
25 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is AroundTheRings.com, for subscribers only.