The inaugural European Games kick off in Baku on Friday 12th June as the final continental Games, joining the Asian and Pan-American Games and providing European athletes with an opportunity to build qualifying points for Rio 2016.
Here’s our lowdown on everything you need to know, from new sports and athletes to watch to the background to the games and the events you won’t want to miss…
A is for Athletes’ Village
Baku’s Athletes’ Village is a 13-building complex containing a total of 7,510 beds, dining halls, a fitness centre and swimming pool, cafes, recreation centres and has been touted as “one of the best facilities ever created to accommodate athletes in the history of sport” to help the athletes prepare for their events.
B is for Baku
The host of the inaugural European Games is Baku, capital city of Azerbaijan.
Baku had previously bid unsuccessfully for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, but (despite expecting competition from Russia and Turkey) was actually the only city to bid for the honour of hosting the first ever European Games.
C is for Chocolate
Okay, so it might sound an unlikely candidate for the A-Z of an international sporting competition – but we’re not talking Cadbury’s here, but the 200 kg tableau (the largest in the world) created by chocolate maker Nikola Popov in celebration of the European Games. We’d probably take that over a gold medal…
D is for Debut
Four sports are making their ‘debut’ in this level of competition at Baku 2015, and they are:
- Beach Soccer – football played on a beach or sand pit and one of the world’s fastest growing sports
- Sambo – a martial art originating from the former Soviet Union, similar to judo or wrestling
- Karate – the famous martial art will be competed in this format for the first time
- Basketball 3×3 – a variation of basketball played on half a court, with both teams shooting on the same hoop
E is for European Games
The European Games are the final continental games to be initiated, joining the Asian Games, Pan-American Games, All-Africa Games and Pacific Games. As of 2015, every continent will have a continental games.
F is for Flame
As part of the build up to the first European Games, the Baku 2015 flame completed a 16km tour of 60 regions around Azerbaijan before landing in the host city.
Among the 100 torch bearers were Olympic gold medallists, European champions, musicians and politicians.
G is for Gold
There are 253 medal events at Baku, so that’s 253 gold medals to win. But winning that medal isn’t all the athletes will be striving for: a gold place also nets the winner 40 ranking points towards qualifying for next year’s Olympics in Rio.
H is for Heydar Aliyev Arena
The newly-renovated arena is just one of Baku 2015’s sporting venues and will be used for Judo, Wrestling and Sambo events throughout the Games. The arena has a capacity of 5,000, has previously played host to over 30 international events of various sports disciplines and is named after the national leader of Azerbaijan.
I is for Ilya Leonov
The Russian beach soccer player has been named as an Athlete Ambassador for Baku 2015 along with teammates Andrey Bukhlitskiy and Anton Shkarin. The trio, along with the rest of the team, are FIFA World Cup champions in their sport, which will make its debut in the Games.
J is for Jeyran
Jeyran is a gazelle, and one of the two official mascots of the Baku games. The two cartoon mascots (the other being a pomegranate named Nar – more about him later) were created to help bring the Games to life in a playful and colourful way.
Gazelles are a protected species in Azerbaijan, a symbol of natural beauty, grace and purity. So Jeyran, the “cultural ambassador” of the Games, has a lot to answer for…
K is for Katie Taylor
As the most decorated athlete in the history of women’s Boxing and generally recognised as the world’s best pound-for-pound female boxer, Ireland’s Katie Taylor is definitely one to watch. She currently holds 17 gold medals including an Olympic title, five consecutive World Championships and six consecutive European Championships. And she’s got her sights on one more. We’re not going to argue with her…
L is for Logo
The logo for Baku 2015 was designed by Adam Yunusov and is inspired by Azerbaijan’s ancient and contemporary symbols.
The symbols included are a flame, water, the mythical Simurgh bird, an Azerbaijani carpet and a pomegranate, a symbol of unity and also the basis for Games mascot Nar.
M is for Money
Events as big as the inaugural European Games don’t come cheap… the current official cost of Baku 2015 currently stands at $1.2 billion – but experts reckon the real figure may be much higher, as the new Olympic Stadium alone has eaten $600 million of the budget. Ouch…
N is for Nar
Nar is Jeyran’s fellow Games mascot, described as a “sun-loving, playful pomegranate who grew up outside the city of Goychay”. Which might all sound a bit crazy, but the pomegranate is a symbol of unity in Azerbaijani folklore, so you can see where they were going with this one.
Apparently, his “role” in the Games is to represent the energy, enthusiasm and fun of the Games. He’ll be seen explaining and getting involved with the sports at the venues, and loves trying out new sports. Maybe he’ll give Sambo a go…
O is for Opening Ceremony
There’s no sporting event without a grand (and just a little bit over-the-top) opening ceremony, and Baku is no exception. The opening ceremony takes place on Friday 12th June in the Olympic Stadium and will attract 68,000 spectators as well as a worldwide television audience of millions. And we’d wager there’ll be fireworks.
P is for Proctor & Gamble
American multinational consumer goods company P&G (the bods behind Duracell, Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Olay and more also a top Olympic sponsor) are just one of the corporations sponsoring Baku 2015. The Games have been promoted in P&G products across Azerbaijan in the build-up to the start date.
Q is for Qualifying
In twelve of the sports staged at Baku 2015, spots for the Rio 2016 Olympics are up for grabs, so competition will be fierce. In Archery, Athletics, Boxing, Cycling, Judo, Shooting, Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Triathlon, Volleyball and Wrestling, athletes will be vying for their place at Rio. Watch this space…
R is for Red Bull
The energy drink manufacturer has signed up as an official supporter of the Baku Games. As well as supplying revitalising drinks to the athletes, Red Bull will be lending their social media expertise to help boost awareness of the less well-known events, and providing entertainment in the Athletes’ Village. And giving people wings, obviously.
S is for Schedule
Find out what’s on when and when your favourite sports will be shown in the full Baku 2015 schedule, available here.
T is for Tissot
Tissot are official timekeepers of the Games (which basically means they’ll be responsible for making and breaking gold medal dreams by the millisecond).
To celebrate the Games, they’ve launched a special edition Quickster watch styled in the Baku logo colours with a stopwatch-inspired face so you can time yourself just like a top athlete.
The Quickster Baku 2015 special edition watch costs £330 and is available to purchase here.
U is for Unicef
Children’s charity Unicef have teamed up with Baku 2015 officials to promote sporting activity for young people in Azerbaijan, encouraging children to take up sport and make use of the state-of-the-art sports facilities that have recently been built across the country.
V is for Volunteers
Thousands of people have signed up to help the Games run smoothly, and have received weeks of training in preparation.
The volunteers, nicknamed ‘Flamekeepers’, will provide transport advice, event and venue information, assist athletes and deal with queries from visitors and the media.
W is for World Champions
Almost 200 of the 6,000 athletes competing at Baku are already world champions in their respective sports, and a host of Olympic medallists will also be present – 150 medal winners and 59 gold medallists, to be precise. There’s going to be some tough competition…
X is for Xcitement
Anticipation is building for the innovative multi-sport event thanks to the torch relay, venue details, social media chat, opening ceremony rumours and the arrival of the athletes.
There’s not long to wait now…
Y is for You
Z is for Zardab
Just one of the Azerbaijani regions the Baku 2015 flame travelled through on its relay. See it in action in the video below:
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