Armenian athletes will be traveling to Baku, Azerbaijan to participate in the first European Games that will be held from June 12 to 28, 2015. Armenia’s National Olympic Committee made this announcement on March 10 following its executive committee session.
Iveta Tonoyan, the spokesperson for the NOC said that the president of the Olympic committee, Gagik Tsarukyan noted that “the sporting world is one united family and as such decisions must be adopted in a unified way…the decision was taken to participate in the upcoming European Summer Games.” Tsarukyan also said that security guarantees have been provided by the International Olympic Committee and the European Olympic Committee.
Armenian athletes will be participating in six sporting events, including judo, wrestling, sambo martial art, boxing and taekwondo. It is anticipated that about six thousand athletes from all over the European continent will compete in 20 sports.
The 2015 European Games is slated to be the inaugural edition of the European Games, an international sporting event for athletes representing European National Olympic Committees.
Baku was chosen to host the first-ever European Games during the European Olympic Committee General Assembly, which took place in Rome in December 2012. Armenia had refused to take part in the voting as Azerbaijan was the sole bidder for the event. The games will take place every four years.
The games have not been without controversy. The prosecution of dozens of Azerbaijani human rights activists and journalists, including restrictions on civil society organizations have presented concerns, however oil-rich Azerbaijan’s human rights record is often times ignored by Western powers because of their energy interests.
On March 4, Human Rights Watch said, “The Azerbaijani government should immediately release all wrongly detained activists and journalists, with only 100 days remaining before the first European Games begin.”
“As the first country to hold this new major European sporting event, Azerbaijan is looking to project a progressive, modern image internationally,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “If the European Games are to show that sport can leave a positive legacy, then every journalist and activist detained on politically motivated charges in Azerbaijan should be released well before the opening ceremony.”