(ATR) The Flame of Peace is extinguished as the European Games come to an end at a rousing closing ceremony in Minsk, Belarus.
Athletes from 50 European countries march at the closing ceremony. (ATR)
European Olympic Committee leaders said that the second edition of Europe’s Continental Games “exceeded all expectations".
Republic of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko, Russian president Vladimir Putin, European Olympic Committees president Janez Kocijančič and IOC president Thomas Bach were among the dignitaries and international sport leaders in attendance at Dinamo Stadium on Sunday night.
Some 3,666 athletes from all 50 European countries competed in the Games, almost 2,000 of whom paraded in the ceremony on a warm and pleasant evening in the Belarusian capital.
Lukashenko addressed the 22,000 spectators and athletes assembled in the venerable stadium, which was home to soccer matches at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko (front, second from right) at closing ceremony (EOC)
“They were a triumph of spectacular, unforgettable impressions and strong emotions,” Lukashenko said of the Games, which were the largest sporting event in the history of independent Belarus. “They brought about every emotion: joy, happiness and disappointment.
“It was a festival of friendship and unity, tense and passionate competitions that united millions of Europeans into one big family.
“But above all, it was a gift we gave to ourselves, Belarusians, as an evidence of our capability and the proof that we can move mountains, but when we are together.”
The EOC president Kocijančič followed the Belarusian leader, issuing some stern words regarding the global fight against doping.
“Together with our Belarusian and Russian friends, we have delivered an excellent multi-sport competition only second to the Olympic Games,” the EOC leader from Slovenia said.
“We enjoyed the atmosphere and we are proud of the results.”
He said the world of sports faces many problems, “the main issue being doping".
“We will continue our fight for clean sport in making a zero tolerance policy to doping, one that we applied here at the European Games.”
There were no doping positives at the 10-day Games. Kocijančič congratulated Russia for winning the medals count and Belarus for finishing second.
Thomas Bach waves to crowd at closing ceremony. (EOC)
“What a tremendous achievement for the host nation,” he said.
Eight of the 15 sports in Minsk served as qualifiers for Tokyo 2020, a number Kocijančič said he hopes will rise at the next edition of Games, which are headed to Poland in 2023.
“Many athletes qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – congratulations to all and I wish you the best.”
At precisely 11:38 p.m. local time, Kocijančič declared the second European Games officially closed.
Bach attended the final day of the Games, arriving in Minsk on Sunday directly from his participation in the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. Accompanied by Kocijančič, the IOC president attended badminton, gymnastics and Greco-Roman finals, presenting medals at the latter two.
Asked for his impressions of the European Games, Bach said: “What I have seen so far, and heard so far, it’s very well-organized.
“The atmosphere is obviously very good but I’m just here for a few hours so I can only refer to what I’ve heard from the European Olympic Committees and they are obviously very happy.”
The third edition of the European Games will take place in Krakow and the Malopolska region of Poland in 2023.
Written by Brian Pinelli in Minsk
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