Baku looks to fu­ture af­ter de­liv­er­ing golden Games

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY PI­RATE IR­WIN

Pop diva Lady Gaga’s ren­di­tion of “Imag­ine” at the Euro­pean Games open­ing cer­e­mony lit the touch­pa­per that put hu­man rights is­sues on the back­burner and ush­ered in a dream two weeks for both con­tro­ver­sial hosts Azer­bai­jan and Pat Hickey, pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Olympic Com­mit­tees.

Ma­jor con­cerns over the rights record of Pres­i­dent Il­ham Aliyev’s gov­ern­ment, with Hickey tar­geted for al­low­ing the Games to be held there, and belief the inau­gu­ral Games them­selves would be a col­lec­tor’s item be­dev­iled the leadup.

The Games — la­beled by one news­pa­per as “The Games of Shame” — end, how­ever, with ar­guably Azer­bai­jan hav­ing suc­cess­fully pre­sented a far more pos­i­tive im­age to the world, al­beit at a cost of sev­eral bil­lion U.S. dol­lars, and the Euro­pean Games brand as­sured as six cities are vy­ing for the 2019 edi­tion.

On the sport­ing front the three Olympic di­vas of Jade Jones in taek­wondo, and box­ing duo Ni­cola Adams and Katie Tay­lor added Euro­pean Games gold to their Lon­don tri­umphs.

The ab­sence of the track and field and swimming stars also al­lowed oth­ers to gain a de­served place in the spotlight and they de­lighted in it.

Bri­tish star­let Am­ber Hill, a self­as­sured 17-year-old skeet markswoman, un­em­ployed 43-year-old Cuban de­fec­tor Ivan Trevejo, who won fenc­ing gold for France 19 years af­ter he took Olympic sil­ver in At­lanta, and su­per heavy­weight box­ing cham­pion Joe Joyce, who lives with his blind mum and has a fine arts de­gree, were just some who shone.

Azer­bai­jan gave a good ac­count of them­selves and had Aliyev and his 20 strong mo­tor­cade — bring­ing the rest of the traf­fic to an obe­di­ent stand­still — speed­ing from venue to venue so he could present the medals.

The suc­cess of the Games, though, is not go­ing to pro­pel them im­petu­ously into launch­ing a third bid for Baku to host the Olympics — they failed to make the short list on the pre­vi­ous two oc­ca­sions.

“Any coun­try or city that bids for the Olympics comes af­ter a thor­ough re­view,” said Azer­bai­jani Sports Min­is­ter Azad Rahi­mov.

“The city is ready for the Olympics. The dead­line (for the 2024 Olympics) is Sept. 15 so we still have a cer­tain amount of time to de­cide.

“We have to look at how much in­fra­struc­ture we need to build.

“We will do deep re­search on how many sports com­plexes we have to con­struct. I think we’ll have enough time for con­sul­tancy process.

“We will sub­mit a de­tailed re­port to the gov­ern­ment as to whether to bid or not,” added Rahi­mov, who re­vealed all the sports venues from the Games will be avail­able to the public and free of charge.

For Hickey, whose 70th birth­day ar­rived dur­ing the Games, the Azer­bai­ja­nis de­liv­ered big time and al­lowed his brain­child to gain cur­rency, so much so that apart from the four al­ready in the run­ning for 2019 two cities ap­proached him dur­ing the event to de­clare an in­ter­est in host­ing it.

The Ir­ish­man also has the cru­cial sup­port of In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Thomas Bach.

“He (Bach) be­lieves in these con­ti­nen­tal Games for two rea­sons: each city who hosts these Games is a po­ten­tial can­di­date for the Olympics,” Hickey told AFP.

“The other rea­son is that these Games can act as qual­i­fiers for the Olympics.

“If you take judo, an ath­lete has to travel the world at great ex­pense to gain points to­wards qual­i­fy­ing for the Olympics when it would be sim­pler and cheaper for them to do that at one Games.”

Hickey even got his wish to present Tay­lor with her gold medal af­ter earn­ing a hug from Aliyev up in the stands.

“I’ve known Pat (Hickey) for years now it’s great to have an Ir­ish­man so high up and put that medal round your neck,” said Tay­lor.

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