Western European Leaders Shun Baku Games Opening

Fireworks above Baku's newly-built Olympic Stadium
Fireworks above Baku's newly-built Olympic Stadium

Fireworks above Baku’s newly-built Olympic Stadium

BAKU—A large portion of leaders of Western European countries – with the except of some microstates – ignored the opening ceremony of the European Games, Turan Agency writes. Meanwhile, a resolution has been elaborated on in the German Parliament regarding the human rights situation in Azerbaijan.

Since the past year, the Azerbaijani government has silenced almost all of the independent and opposition media in the country. Numerous Western media representatives have been denied access to the country ahead of the Games, including a German TV ARD correspondent and The Guardian’s chief sports reporter.

Azerbaijan denies entry to the journalists who criticize the government, often putting them in a “black list” of personae non grata. Before the beginning of the European Games, the Foreign Ministry threatened to deny accreditation to the journalists who wrote “against the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan.”

The first European Games, hosted in Baku under the auspices of the European Olympic Committee, will run until June 28. According to media estimates, the Games will cost the Azerbaijani population $10 billion. The hosting of the Games also meant the destruction of large swathes of property with forced evictions of residents and a massive crackdowns and brutal repressions against dissent.

Athletes from Armenia will be attending the games, accompanied by the Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Armenia, Hrachya Rostomyan. In total, the Armenian delegation is comprised of 54 people, with 25 of them being participating athletes.

The Armenian athletes will compete in 7 sports – taekwondo, judo, sambo, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, boxing and shooting. The flag-bearer of the Armenian delegation at the opening of the European Games was Hrachya Rostomyan. Armenia rejected Baku’s offer to cover the costs of the athletes’ attendance, as they have offered to all participating athletes.

Armenia’s Olympic Committee President, Gagik Tsarukyan, did not attend Friday’s opening ceremony at the inaugural European Games, nor has he traveled to Azerbaijan for the 16-day event, according to Reuters.

“The President of the National Olympic Committee of Armenia was never attending,” European Olympic Committees President Patrick Hickey told reporters. “He told us that from day one.”

Hickey tried to play down Tsarukyan’s absence, saying the businessman was otherwise occupied.

“He seldom attends many events. He prefers to operate within his own country. He has a lot to do as he is a successful businessman.”

“We know there is a conflict,” Hickey said. “But we are so happy this is happening here with Armenia participating.”

“I want to praise authorities of Armenia for coming and Azerbaijan for making them feel welcome,” Hickey said.


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