Chef de Mission, Serbia
1) Why has it taken so long for Europe to stage its first continental Games?
I believe the very busy schedule that athletes have, with all the European Championships and other competitions, is the main reason that we have waited this long. This idea existed for some time, but it was in Belgrade at the EOC (European Olympic Committees) General Assembly in 2010 when the decision was made to start with the project of the European Games. I am personally really glad that Europe is finally going to have its own Games as the other continents already do.
2) What makes Baku the perfect host city to stage the inaugural European Games?
Azerbaijan is a rapidly developing country so the sport is growing as well as all the other segments of the society. With determination to build extraordinary sport facilities and with Azerbaijanis being such warm, friendly and enthusiastic people, I believe they will make this event a big success.
3) How big do you think your team for Baku 2015 will be and how many sports will you be represented in?
Team Serbia will have more than 100 athletes in 16 to 17, maybe 18 sports. We do expect to have a big and strong team and we are hoping to make great results at the first-ever edition of the European Games.
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?
I think that it is very important that a number of sports will give an opportunity to the athletes to qualify for the Rio Games. Having in mind that the European Games are the biggest multi-sport event in 2015. and with this additional motive, athletes will surely make their best results.
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?
I do believe that the European Games are going to become a huge sport event. For European sport this is a great historical moment because all the other continents already have their Games. Europe definitely deserves its own multi-sport competition.
6) How impressed have you been by the facilities to be used for the European Games and the work of Baku 2015 in ensuring their delivery and readiness?
I had an opportunity to visit Baku a couple of times in the past year and I have noticed a huge progress every single time. All the new and refurbished facilities to be used for the European Games are impressive. The Baku 2015 Organising Committee is composed of very experienced staff who worked in former Olympic Games and I believe they will deliver an extraordinary competition.
7) Are there any sports not represented that you would like to see in the European Games?
I find 19 sports on the programme a huge success, having in mind that this is the first edition of the competition. Serbian athletes have had a lot of success in basketball, handball and rowing in the past few years, and I hope our best athletes from these sports compete at the future editions of European Games.
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?
I think it is an excellent idea that the inaugural European Games are held in such a growing country, with a lot of young and enthusiastic people. Hosting a major sport event is definitely a great honour for Azerbaijan, and I believe that they are absolutely ready to justify the trust.
9) How interested do you think the public in your country will be in the Games?
Serbian people are very much into sport, and of course, everything that is new is always interesting. It is a very important fact that the Baku Games are qualifying for Rio 2016 in nine sports and that will stimulate sport fans in Serbia.
10) What are you looking forward to most at Baku 2015?
I am convinced the Games will be successful and provide an extraordinary experience for all athletes and other participants.
Interview by Daniel Etchells