Chef de Mission, Lithuania
1) Why has it taken so long for Europe to stage its first continental Games?
Perhaps one of the reasons why it took so long, are European Championships that have been well established and competitively strong for a relatively long time. Another reason - busy competition schedule, so it is difficult to include another multi-sport event that would embrace many sports at a very high level.
2) What makes Baku the perfect host city to stage the inaugural European Games?
Azerbaijan wants to establish itself as a well-known and strong country and has the resources to do it. This country is willing to invest in different events. Europe is lucky to have Azerbaijan organising the inaugural European Games.
3) How big do you think your team for Baku 2015 will be and how many sports will you be represented in?
We expect to have 13 sports represented by 63 athletes and 35 team officials.
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?
Without doubt, an opportunity to qualify for Olympic Games during European Games, has a great impact on athletes’ yearly plan. It motivates and enforces a better preparation for the event. It is also important from an organisational point of view. A possibility to qualify for Olympic Games is important for the stakeholders that are responsible for finances. If seen as a road to Olympic Games, preparation for European Games and an event itself gets more attention and, possibly, more financial support.
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?
Hopefully it will significantly help European sportsmen to compete with other sportsmen from other continents. It should be a nice event for spectators and we should all endeavour to promote it as the European sport competition’s flagship. But, in order to become one, European Games should take into account all major European sports and collaborate with International Federations to have elite athletes qualifying and competing in this event. Currently, it is not always the case.
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?
All facilities are very good and they could serve as a benchmark for other Games. We saw that the Organising Committee is doing its best to assure that all venues are completely ready and efficient for use during the Games.
7) Are there any sports not represented that you would like to see in the European Games?
Modern Pentathlon, rowing, weightlifting, sailing and equestrian.
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?
9) How interested do you think the public in your country will be in the Games?
Public interest is growing as the Games approach. Increasing interest by media and information provided by National Olympic Committees also contributes to that. Yet, it is not quite like Olympic Games, but we understand it’s the inaugural Games that still need to earn its interest within public.
10) What are you looking forward to most at Baku 2015?
Good competition, a few medals, nice souvenirs and memories.
Interview by Daniel Etchells