Chef de Mission, Moldova
1) Why has it taken so long for Europe to stage its first continental Games?
The first Asian Games were held in 1951, the Pan American Games, also in 1951. From 1978, we have the Commonwealth Games, whose predecessors go all the way back to 1911. Europe has fallen drastically behind. Of course, if we look back, we should bear in mind the post-war destruction and the Iron Curtain division and political tensions Europe was facing for almost half of a century. At the same time, there is also a long period marked by the lack of resolve and cooperation between national and international governing bodies.
2) What makes Baku the perfect host city to stage the inaugural European Games?
Baku is a wonderful city, beautiful, possessing excellent facilities and infrastructure; its residents are passionate and interested in sports. Significant sports events experience and a superb organising team [also make it the perfect host city].
3) How big do you think your team for Baku 2015 will be and how many sports will you be represented in?
Moldova will have around 85 athletes - it is the biggest team that our country has ever had. Representing athletics, canoe sprint, road cycling, judo, shooting, swimming, boxing, archery, taekwondo, fencing, sambo, and wrestling. Twelve sports in total.
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’s a tremendous opportunity to develop spectator and athletes’ interest and participation in the European Games. At the same time, it is an important element to consider when it comes to the programmes of the future editions.
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?
If we think about the Pan American Games or Asian Games, Europe has almost 60 years of catching up to do. Continental events are landmark fixtures of the international sporting calendar and European Games would certainly occupy their rightful place. Europe is home to some of the most brilliant athletes and most ardent sport supporters in the world. Moreover, sport is an integral part of European culture. The European Games are a welcome opportunity to rekindle interest in sports on the continent, to promote the values it stands for, and to encourage and support sport development in European countries. It’s an event with tremendous potential and Baku 2015 is an exciting new step into the future.
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?
World-class facilities and stellar professionalism of the LOC (Local Organising Committee) team leave us more than confident of Baku Games' potential to become one of the landmark sports events on many levels. Speaking of our impressions, of course, we should highlight the state-of-the-art venues and brilliantly planned infrastructure. The airport is really close to the city, while the Athletes' Village is walking distance away from the sports cluster. The organisation of the very first European Games is a tremendous responsibility; the LOC has done a wonderful job thus far. Sports director Pierce O’Callaghan is a remarkable professional, who has worked as European Athletics' communications director for several years and who has been with Baku 2015 from the start. He served as one of the EOC’s (European Olympic Committees) leading advisors on the inception of the European Games and was part of the Coordination Commission. Baku’s director of press operations Jayne Pearce has served as head of press operations at the London  Olympic Games and many other major international sports events.
7) Are there any sports not represented that you would like to see in the European Games?
We would definitely like to see all Olympic sports.
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?
Successful European Games will elevate the image of Azerbaijan abroad; raising awareness about Baku as one of the most progressive, beautiful, culturally-rich cities of Europe. The European Games will play an important role in national sports, economic and social development of the country. Furthermore, it would be an important opportunity to test Baku’s readiness to host the Olympic Games and prepare a future bid.
9) How interested do you think the public in your country will be in the Games?
Moldova has 10 medal hopefuls and quite a big delegation. Thus, we do have reason to expect the interest to be quite high. The European Games are a unique event, a first one, an important opportunity for our athletes. For some, Baku 2015 could serve as a chance to prove their potential and hopefully qualify for the Olympics, while for others it would be an occasion to experience a major sports event.
10) What are you looking forward to most at Baku 2015?
Participation in such a historic sports event is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many. It’s a moment to make memories; a celebration of sport, of Olympic values and spirit. We are looking forward to being a part of this event to see outstanding sporting performances by Moldovan athletes and their European counterparts.
Interview by Daniel Etchells