Slovakia Chef de Mission Branislav Delej ©Jan Sukup

Branislav Delej
Chef de Mission, Slovakia

1)    Why has it taken so long for Europe to stage its first continental Games?
This was quite difficult to realise in the past because of the great tradition of the European Championships in almost every sport, as well as the long-time European dominance in world sport, including the Olympics. The need to establish the Continental Games was not as big as for example in Asia, Africa or America. But the time has come now.

2)    What makes Baku the perfect host city to stage the inaugural European Games?
The city is really big enough to host such a huge event. I feel very much that the State interest about the general success of European Games is really great. This is a part of general vision of the country's development and modernisation. The result of this State interest and very professional level of preparations is a very high international level of both sport and accommodation facilities. I mean it was very important to hire many experts from abroad to lead the construction and technical preparations as well.

3)    How big do you think your team for Baku 2015 will be and how many sports will you be represented in?

At the moment we can estimate the size of the Slovak team with around 160 to 180 athletes in about four or five of the entire sports programme.

Branislav Delej was impressed by the Baku 2015 Athletes' Village
Branislav Delej was impressed by the Baku 2015 Athletes' Village ©Baku 2015

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?
For example, for the shooters, triathletes or table tennis players this is really very important - the gold medallists will directly qualify to Rio [2016]. And for many others it is also very important to fight successfully either for their IF's [International Federation's] qualification points, ranking positions, or for reaching the Rio Olympics standards set by respective International Federations in athletics or swimming.

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 think we should wait until the end of the event to evaluate properly the event in Baku itself, as well as the future of the European Games.

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?
BEGOC [Baku 2015 European Games Operation Committee] works on a very high level. During our visit, the organisers showed us fantastic and state-of-the-art sports facilities, and the impressive Athletes' Village as well. The BEGOC representatives also showed very high competence.

A golf competition at future European Games should be very interesting says Branislav Delej
A golf competition at future European Games "should be very interesting" says Branislav Delej ©Getty Images

7)    Are there any sports not represented that you would like to see in the European Games?
I think a golf contest should be very interesting. Maybe in the near future...

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?
Slovak Republic has held its independence only from 1993, so we can feel very well the symbolism of this fact for the people of Azerbaijan, and understand it as well.

9)    How interested do you think the public in your country will be in the Games?
The European Games is a completely new event, not yet well-known to the general public. To be honest, I am quite disappointed with a low interest of the Slovak media about this event until now - in spite of how a really great team will represent the country. However, I hope that after the successes of Slovak athletes the public interest about this event in our country will raise significantly.

10)    What are you looking forward to most at Baku 2015?
I strongly believe that, especially in sports such as shooting as well as in canoeing, the Slovak athletes will belong to the best. Those sports connect my biggest expectations. But we will have great athletes also in some other sports.

Interview by Daniel Etchells