The Netherlands have withdrawn from hosting the 2019 European Games, it was revealed here today.
The announcement comes just two days before the Opening Ceremony of the inaugural Games here on Friday (June 12).
Bidding is now set to be re-opened, including going back to the five cities who had originally expressed an interest in hosting 2019.
Patrick Hickey, President of the European Olympic Committees, admitted the decision was a disappointment but is optimistic that there will be plenty of interest following this first-ever event, which is set to attract 6,000 athletes from 50 countries in 20 sports.
"This news is disappointing, but we would like to thank the Dutch for their interest," Hickey, who carried the Baku 2015 Torch today, told insidethegames.
"We are confident that these inaugural European Games in Baku will be the ideal showcase for this new event and its long-term sporting, social and economic benefits.
"I have no doubt that we will be able to present a strong host for the 2019 European Games, but right now our focus remains on ensuring this inaugural edition is the best possible launch pad for Europe’s first continental Games.”
The Netherlands had been awarded the event by the EOC at an Extraordinary General Assembly in Belek last month.
But the plan failed to earn enough support from The Netherlands' Sports Minister Edith Schippers, the Provinces and Municipalities after the Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF) had asked for a financial contribution of nearly €60 million (£44 million/$68 million) towards the original budget of €125 million (£91 million/$142 million).
"It would be irresponsible to pull together €57.5 million (£41.9 million/$61.5 million) for the European Games in 2019," a joint statement from the Government, the Provinces and Municipalities said.
Under the original proposals presented by the NOC*NSF , events would be staged across nine Dutch cities in five Provinces.
There were planned to be only 15 sports, five less than at Baku 2015.
But the plan suffered a major blow when Eindhoven withdrew, joining Rotterdam and Utrecht, who had pulled out in April.
"The NOC*NSF understands this decision of the Government and does not see this as a lack of vision on the future of the major sporting events," Dutch officials said in a statement.
"The NOC*NSF had expected that this plan, which had already been embraced by the Dutch sports, international sports and many private parties, would be supported by the Dutch Governments and local authorities.
"The NOC*NSF sees it as a huge missed opportunity for the Netherlands to show how to organise a large multi-sport event in an innovative manner across an entire country. "
June 2015: Netherlands awarded 2019 European Games
May 2015: Dutch multi-city bid to be officially proposed as host of 2019 European Games
April 2015: Dutch confirm "nationwide" bid for 2019 European Games
January 2015: Exclusive: Surprise seventh candidate for 2019 European Games emerges
December 2014: Dutch set to bid for 2019 European Games in at least two cities