Chef de Mission, Poland
1) Why has it taken so long for Europe to stage its first continental Games?
For a long time Europe was the only continent without its own multi-sport event. It resulted from the fact that there have been and there still are many continental championships organised by the European Sport Federations. The calendar of both world and European events is planned much in advance so it has made it difficult to introduce one more big event involving many sports. The case of athletics for the Third League at the first European Games is an example how difficult it is to include one more event for certain sports. Such a big number of events organised for Europe [Summer and Winter Olympic Games, YOGs (Youth Olympic Games), EYOFs (European Youth Olympic Festivals)] results in extremely high costs to be covered by NOCs (National Olympic Committees) and other sport organisations.
2) What makes Baku the perfect host city to stage the inaugural European Games?
We hope Baku will be the perfect host city. The economic potential of Azerbaijan and great enthusiasm of Azerbaijani people have allowed Baku to be ready for the Games in just three years, in comparison to seven years in the case of the Olympic Games. Those three years allowed to offer the participants many brand new venues and modernisation of the existing ones. After two visits to Baku, I believe the participants will find excellent conditions of staying and competing and professional organisation. We have to remember that Baku applied twice to host the Olympic Games. It means that it is ready for challenges like that.
3) How big do you think your team for Baku 2015 will be and how many sports will you be represented in?
The Polish team for the Baku Games will be potentially represented in 17 sports. We have already qualified in 12 sports with 180 athletes. Finally we estimate to have a team of 300 athletes and officials together.
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?
It is very important that the European Games give the possibility to qualify for the Olympic Games. It would be positive to increase the number of sports that afford European athletes this opportunity.
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?
Continuing the idea to extend the number of sports that allow the European athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games is generally important to increase the number of sports that are covered by the programme of the Olympic Games. More Olympic sports, more qualifications, the bigger general and media interest. We expect with interest how the European Games will develop and whether they will find their permanent place in the calendar of EOC (European Olympic Committees) events. It is also extremely important to secure the participation of top athletes in Baku. That may be the key factor to make the European Games sport’s flagship event on the continent.
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?
I have been twice in Baku - for the Chefs de Mission seminar last June and on the occasion of the EOC General Assembly last November. On both occasions I had the possibility to see the facilities and I was very impressed with the progress that has been made by the Baku 2015 Organising Committee. I believe the athletes and officials will have excellent facilities to compete, to live and work during the European Games.
7) Are there any sports not represented that you would like to see in the European Games?
There are a few sports that should be represented at the European Games in the future. Athletics will be present in Baku but for the Third League only. The same concerns aquatics which allows the participation of junior athletes. I wish to see the first one for elite athletes and the second for seniors. It would be interesting to have more team sports like basketball in the Olympic format, or handball, as well as more individual Olympic sports like for example rowing or weightlifting.
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?
Azerbaijan is the country that intends to have its own place in the international Olympic and sports movement. Organisation of such a big sport event 25 years after getting independence is a great achievement proved by impressive facilities offered to the participants, good organisation and professionalism, and a really very kind attitude to international guests.
9) How interested do you think the public in your country will be in the Games?
It is very difficult to estimate at this moment. Though our NOC promotes the event on different occasions the knowledge of the general public is still very small. We also hope for more interest and bigger involvement of media. March 6 is the deadline for media accreditations and our NOC hopes for some applications. The Polish Olympic Committee continues the promotional activities. The Baku 2015 European Games will be one of the main actors at our flagship event on May 23 - the Sports For All Festival. We have very good cooperation with the Azerbaijani Embassy in Warsaw in that respect. We regularly publish the information on the European games and Baku in our quarterly Olympic magazine and Olympionik (for youth).
10) What are you looking forward to most at Baku 2015?
I believe that the European Games in Baku will be the event with high-level sport and good organisation. Having only three years, it was very clever and positive to benefit from the assistance of the successful team from the London [2012 Olympic] Games and other Olympic events. I hope the competitions will be met with interest both from the media and public, and the venues will be full of spectators. Having such a big team as Poland, I also hope for the interest in our country.
Interview by Daniel Etchells