Baku held openning of First European Games on 12th June 2015
This past Friday night was the Opening Ceremonies of the Baku 2015 European Games. This is the inaugural European Games and they are being held in Baku, Azerbaijan from June 12-28th. The European Games is an international multi-sport event for the athletes representing the National Olympic Committees of Europe (NCO’s). The Games will feature 6,000 athletes from 50 NCO’s competing in 20 sports. Baku Azerbaijan was awarded the right to hold these first European Games by a vote in Rome and they will be held every four years after this year. Azerbaijan was the only nation bidding to host the inaugural event so it wasn’t a difficult decision of who would host it. It has been reported that the president has spent over $10 billion on the games. Oh an in case you didn’t know, Azerbaijan is very rich in oil and natural gas (of course it is). And of note, the county—and its government—has been under much scrutiny as of late for press and particularly, human rights violations. Lady in White: Lady Gaga performed «Imagine» by John Lennon at the 2015 European Games Opening Ceremony. Not sure what she got paid for this but I venture to guess, it must have been A LOT. Irregardless, I think she was exceptional, as usual. According to this news report, she was hiding in her Azerbaijani Hotel room for days before her performance Friday night.
Karate brings Azerbaijan first Baku 2015 medals
Farzaliyev and Aghayev win gold for hosts, while France and Turkey also claim two titles. Host nation Azerbaijan won its first gold medals of the Baku 2015 on the first Saturday afternoon of the European Games. Firdovsi Farzaliyev defeated Italy’s Luca Maresca in the men’s Kumite -60kg category of the Karate competition, and later the ‘Black Panther’ — Rafael Aghayev — took down Luigi Busa in the -75kg class. Earlier in the day, Ilaha Gasimova had won Azerbaijan’s first medal of the Games, taking bronze in the women’s Kumite -55kg. The 22-year-old defeated Spain’s Cristina Ferrer Garcia, with France’s Emily Thouy winning the gold medal by beating Croatia’s Jelena Kovacevic in the final. Lucie Ignace won the second gold medal for the French team in -61kg, where she was handed a unanimous points decision after 1-1 after full time against Merve Coban of Turkey. Turkey’s two gold medals came from Serap Ozcelik in the women’s -50kg, and Buruk Uygur in the men’s -67kg. Ozcelik won the fiercely contested women’s Kumite -50kg title, defeating Austria’s Bettina Plank, while Alexandra Recchia of France took the bronze.
Elvin Mursaliyev registers another precious home win on Sunday
Azerbaijan’s Elvin Mursaliyev grappled to gold in the Greco-Roman 75kg Wrestling competition, the second of the night’s four Sunday finals at Baku’s Heydar Aliyev Arena. He won on points against the 21-year-old Serbian Viktor Nemes, who took silver. Russia’s Davit Chakvetadze defeated Ukraine’s Zhan Beleniuk in the 85kg final, the nation’s fifth successive — and successful — gold medal match at Baku 2015. Germany’s Ramsin Azizsir and Turkey’s Metehan Basar won the bronze. Earlier, Russian Artem Surkov won the Greco-Roman 66kg, defeating Migran Arutyunyan of Armenia. Bronze medals went to Azerbaijan’s Hasan Aliyev and Slovakia’s Istvan Levai, who came from four points down to defeat Denys Dem’yankov of Ukraine. In the final bout of the day, Riza Kayaalp won Turkey’s first wrestling gold medal of the Baku 2015 European Games in the final of the 130kg Greco-Roman, defeating Sabahi Shariati of Azerbaijan.
With great home support comes intense pressure
The fourth day of Table Tennis saw Azerbaijani players in action in the singles tournament in front of a noisy local crowd at Baku Sports Hall. The first athlete for the women was Rufat Guliyeva, playing against Bernadette Szocs of Romania. Young spectators supported Guliyeva with a chant that went: «Stretch your arms, stretch your legs, get all the medals! The star is shining in the sky, this is our Rufa performing!» Amongst the youngest supporters were table tennis players Dilara, nine, and Nigar, seven, who said they wanted to compete at the European Games when they grew up. «I am feeling very excited», Guliyeva said afterwards, despite losing 4-0 to the European under-21 no.3. «I managed to do only half of what I have been doing during training, but sometimes I gave her a contest.» Teammate Maryam Imanova got similar support as she gave Galia Dvorak of Spain a tough time despite losing 4-0, with two games ending 11-9 and 12-10. «This support means so much to me», she said. «But it also puts an enormous pressure on my shoulders. I feel that people expect good results from me, so whenever I lose a point or a game, I am thinking of what all these people should think of me, and it distracts a lot.»
For the men, Ramil Jafarov lost in straight games to Poland’s Wang Zengyi. «One of the problems I have faced while playing with him was that the racket he is using is not familiar to Azerbaijani table tennis players. It has spikes on it, and mine is a plain one. We are not used to them», said Jafarov. The last to represent Azerbaijan was Farhad Ismayilov who met with Mihai Bobocica of Italy. For Ismayilov, the 4-0 loss was probably his last international match, as he is planning to retire as an athlete and start coaching. «We have a potential young generation of players,» he said. «And if raised properly they can have a bright future in the world of Table Tennis.»
Very happy that I managed to win. I dedicate my victory to all Azerbaijan people. Our country deserves only victories «, Azerbaijani wrestler Rasul Chunaev at the ceremony honoring the winners of the first Azerbaijani medal Evroigr and the National Olympic Committee.
Anisiya Neborako, the undoubted star of the synchronised swimming programme, landed her second and third gold medals at the Baku 2015 European Games on Tuesday and then joked that she hoped any reward from the Russian Federation would help her buy a car. The 18-year-old collected solo and free combination medals to go with the teams free routine, displaying a rare artistry. Afterwards the powerful Neborako revealed the other, more explosive side of her character in and out of the water when she spoke of how she would love one day to drive a Tesla Supercar. «I’ve got a driver’s licence now and I want to get a car. My dream car is a Tesla but I wouldn’t have enough to buy the best, fancy one, just a simple one,» she said. So, what model would she settle for if a Tesla, which start at $100,000 (approximately €89,000) for just a basic version of the car, were out of her league? «It depends on the money. I need to ask the Federation,» she laughed. Neborako was asked if she was ready to be marketed as the next big potential synchro star in Russia but shrugged: «I don’t know. I have to get into the senior ranks and I don’t know what will happen then.» Such is Russia’s supply of talent that there is no guarantee that any junior star will make it as a senior Olympian, but Neborako, who felt her solo routine was the best of her career, said: «I will rest during the summer and then I start my training again and I can get better.» The solo is not an Olympic event but Neborako says if she had a choice, it would still be her preferred discipline. Even Russia’s greatest synchronised swimmer, five-time Olympic champion Anastasia Davydova, had to concede: «I think the solo is only interesting for specialists and not for spectators but Neborako is different. She is very nice, it’s true. She’s very technical and feels the water very well. It’s like she is flying under the water.»
Track and field athletes from some of Europe’s smallest states have a unique chance to feel the Olympic spirit at the Baku 2015 European Games, according to Leo Kranz, president of the Liechtenstein Olympic Committee. Athletes from Kranz’s 160 square-kilometre landlocked country will combine with those from San Marino, Monaco and Gibraltar to form a single team under the banner of the Athletic Association of the Small States of Europe (AASSE) competing in the two-day battle for team medals at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday and Monday (21/22 June). The AASSE is made up of 10 countries who compete against each other in the biennial Games of the Small States of Europe. Those not large enough to form their own teams combine annually to compete in the European Athletics Team Championships Third League, which has been adopted as the Athletics competition at Baku 2015. And the European Games gives athletes from the continent’s smaller countries the chance of a lifetime to experience the special atmosphere at a major multi-sport event, according to Kranz. «Having a Small States Athletics team here is so important for countries like ours. We don’t have enough athletes to form a team of our own, and the European Games has made it possible for some of our athletes to come and participate,» he said «They don’t know what it’s like at a big event like this. They’ve never been to the Olympic Games because they are not at that high level. But here they get to see what it is like at an Olympics for the first time. «They will feel the Olympic spirit and that is something they’d never be able to do otherwise.» Liechtenstein will contribute four athletes to the AASSE team, while nine have been provisionally selected from San Marino, and five from Gibraltar. Monegasque 800m runner and Opening Ceremony flag bearer Brice Etes will be his nation’s sole representative Many of them will compete in more than one event as they try to amass points over the 40-event programme. Kranz admits the Games’ only multi-national team is unlikely to be challenging for a medal on Monday, but says that, for his athletes, «it’s just important that they’re here». «The most important thing is that they can participate here,» he said. «They won’t really be thinking about promotion or their ranking, they’ll just be happy to be here.»
Belgium and Russia to battle for gold
Belgium, Russia and Great Britain will be the main contenders for gold when the Acrobatic Gymnastics competition gets underway at the National Gymnastics Arena on Wednesday 17 June. The competition includes mixed pairs and women’s group. Belgium’s Ineke van Schoor, Julie van Gelder and Kaat Dumarey are favourites in the women’s group event. The team won bronze at the 2014 world championship in Levallois, and recently took gold at a World Cup competition in Varna. «Winning in Varna led to an incredibly happy feeling,» Van Schoor said. «Now we would really love to take three medals home from these European Games, preferably gold.» Yulia Nikitina, Zhanna Parkhometc and Valeriia Belkina of Russia are Belgium’s main rivals. They were second in Varna. Russian coach Teimuraz Gurgenidze sees it differently, however, saying: «We are our only rivals.» «We came here to compete for the victory. There is no other choice.» In mixed pairs, the Russian 2014 world champion Marina Chernova will compete alongside her new partner Georgy Pataraya. They will most likely battle for the medals with Belgium’s Solano Cassamajor and Yana Vastavel, who finished fourth at the 2014 world championships. Ryan Bartlett and Hannah Baughn of Great Britain should also challenge for medals, as they finished third at the World Cup in Varna. Gymnasts compete two routines in qualifications: a balance and a dynamic routine. From qualifications, the top six mixed pairs and groups advance to the balance, dynamic and all-around finals. Six gold medals will be awarded in the Acrobatic Gymnastics competition: three for mixed pairs and three for women’s groups.
Closing Ceremony of Baku First European Games 2015