Chef de Mission, Latvia
1) Why has it taken so long for Europe to stage its first continental Games?
As the calendars of European Federations are usually highly filled, it might appear that the necessity of continental Games as a joint event has just flew under the radar for quite some time, before emerging on the day-to-day/year-to-year activities background as a standing issue. And, of course, it always takes time - in this case, surprisingly little - to go from idea to implementation.
2) What makes Baku the perfect host city to stage the inaugural European Games?
Europe, as we perceive it, is a vast combination of nations, cultures and beliefs, all sharing certain common ideas and ideals of which sport might be quite prominent. Baku, in turn, is a multi-cultural city; traditional, yet welcoming and tolerant. Apparently, there’s a perfect fit.
3) How big do you think your team for Baku 2015 will be and how many sports will you be represented in?
I would not like to comment on the team size until the last of the qualification quotas has been confirmed. Call it a superstition, if you will. However, we intend to take all opportunities to maximise our presence at the Games - both qualitatively and quantitatively.
4) How important is it for the success and appeal of the European Games that some sports afford athletes the opportunity to qualify for Olympic Games?
In my opinion, it is crucial that the European Games serve as a qualification event for the Olympic Games. The more Federations provide such opportunities and the straighter the qualification route becomes, the better it would be for the overall motivation of participants and, thus, for the success of the European Games.
5) What is the significance of the Games for the European Olympic Movement and how confident are you that they will become sport's flagship event on the continent?
From time to time new possibilities and trends arise in every aspect of our life, later on becoming usual (yet significant) and then - ubiquitous. I believe in 10 years from now, we will all be wondering how we managed to get along without the European Games in the first place.
6) How impressed have you been by the facilities to be used for the European Games and the work of the Baku 2015 Organising Committee in ensuring their delivery and readiness?
You have to try very hard to not over-praise our colleagues at Baku 2015, as they are doing a really great job of bringing the Games to life. The venues are in great shape and as good as it gets for the planned magnitude of the event. Keeping in mind the restrictive timeframe the Organising Committee has to work in, they’re on their way to excellence.
7) Are there any sports not represented that you would like to see in the European Games?
The issue with the Games sports programme is always a very delicate one - be that the Olympic Games, European Games or any other multi-sport event of great significance. Necessity to strike the right balance between the number of sports, disciplines, participants, venues, expenses and sustainability is always hard pressing. Of course, it would be very nice to see the full sports programme of the next Summer Olympics implemented in the European Games (or a proper re-thinking of the current athletics conception), but I believe this all is yet to come.
8) How symbolic is it that the first ever European Games will take place in a country that has experienced a major re-birth of its own since gaining independence in 1991?
As I mentioned before, Baku might be just the perfect place for the inaugural European Games and the experience of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani people might be contributing to this greatly. Starting or doing something for the first time always takes courage and dedication and we all can see that there is no lack thereof.
9) How interested do you think the public in your country will be in the Games?
Latvia is a sports-loving country and, I am sure, the Latvian public will embrace the European Games with interest and passion. We place our expectations on Latvian and European media to cover the Games extensively and in detail.
10) What are you looking forward to most at Baku 2015?
A truly successful inaugural European Games that will leave a lasting legacy for Azerbaijan, European sports and the next editions of the European Games.
Interview by Daniel Etchells