Baku impresses as the first European Games close

HAKAN BAŞ @hakanbash
Published 29.06.2015 20:08
Simurgh, a mythical bird creature in Azerbaijani folklore, is displayed during the closing ceremony of the Baku 2015 European Games.
Simurgh, a mythical bird creature in Azerbaijani folklore, is displayed during the closing ceremony of the Baku 2015 European Games.

The curtain fell on the inaugural European Games on Sunday with the status of Baku as a capable host of a major sporting event enhanced and Europe's doubters nullified

The Baku 2015 European Games finished Sunday without a glitch as the host nation completed the first ever European Games with no trouble occurring during the competition's 30 different sports branches.

The impressive opening ceremony, where world-famous singer Lady Gaga took to the stage, and the fact that all competitions ended without any trouble or delays eliminated the concerns mentioned in international media outlets about Azerbaijan's ability to host the games.

Professional designs and the modern structures of the sport facilities, which the Azeri government completed within two and a half years, spending nearly $1 billion, allowed the sportspeople to display their best performances in the best environments.

Campuses prepared for sportspeople and press members were noted for their comfort. Press members following the organization could work in a professional environment benefitting from the best technological opportunities. Hundreds of hospitable employees comprised of volunteers and servants went to great lengths to ensure that the event went off without a glitch. Tight security measures taken during the games also drew attention. Security forces located in the campuses and the surrounding neighborhood were on duty for 24 hours. Sportspeople and press members were taken to the sports hall with police escorts, without exceeding the speed limit. While Baku received a large influx of tourists after the European Games started, shopping centers, particularly located around the main facilities, gained significant economic profits. Additionally, restaurants and hotels around the sports halls were full of customers during the games.

Azeri supporters made the most of being the host country, cheering on their compatriots who exceeded expectations in the medal table. Azerbaijan won medals in the branches of boxing, karate, taekwondo and wrestling and came second in the medal table after Russia. Azeri President İlham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyev followed the tournaments from the stands. Azeri fans stood up and cheered for Turkish sportspeople in the participant country's parade in the opening ceremony and they continued to show their support for Turkey during the games.

The European Games, which was put into practice after a decision made in the 41th General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee (EOC) held in Rome in Dec. 8, 2012, caused considerable dispute when it opened. The European press claimed that the European Championships, which have been continuing for years among the international sports organizations, were enough to determine the best sportspeople in Europe and thus the European Games weren't needed.

After it was announced that the first games would be held in 2015, countries located in Europe abstained from being host country on the grounds that there wasn't enough time to complete the preparations. The Asian country Azerbaijan, on the other hand, received the rights to hold the games in Baku after successful negotiations with EOC.

European countries had some doubts about Azerbaijan being the host state on the grounds that it didn't have enough experience to hold this kind of organizations. The success of Baku in the European Games, however, left all the concerns behind.

Turkey finished the tournament with six gold, four silver and 19 bronze medals, 29 medals in total. Of the 30 branches, Turkish athletes managed to win medals in 10 branches. Turkey won the most medals in karate, wrestling and volleyball. Enes Erkan won the gold medal at the men's kumite 84 kilogram class, Burak Uygur 67 kilogram, Serap Özçelik at the women's kumite 50 kilogram class. Competing in the 125 kg freestyle division, wrestler Taha Akgül won gold. Greco-Roman wrestler Rıza Kayaalp won a gold medal in the 130 kilogram-category. Turkey won the women's volleyball gold medal by defeating Poland in the final. Russia sent its top athletes to the games as a warm-up for next year's Olympics and was rewarded by winning almost four times as many gold medals as its closest rival. Russia showed signs it could be a major player in aquatic events for years to come, winning 31 gold medals in the pool. Sixteen-year-old Arina Openysheva led the way with seven golds and one silver, racing with almost Michael Phelps-like dominance.

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