By Nigar Orujova
Even more countries have expressed their interest in hosting the next European Games after witnessing Azerbaijan’s success during the flawless competitions, its brilliant opening and closing ceremonies.
Belarus said it was considering becoming the second country to host the European Games in 2019.
“The second European Games can take place in Belarus,” said Maksim Rizhenkov, the assistant to Belorussian President and First Vice-President of the National Olympic Committee, according to BelTA.
"The proposal from the European Olympic Committees was announced. If we wish, such an event could take place in our country, if we offered the conditions for its implementation, appropriate requirements," said Rizhenkov.
At the same time, he said, the costs of the Games, estimated to be in the billions, are being evaluated.
Azerbaijan has built a large sports infrastructure, especially for the Games, he said. Meanwhile Belarus already has a rowing channel, a lot of arenas, and water sports facilities, so the initial costs would be lower.
"However, the reception of 6,000 athletes, and about 1,500 officials and journalists, provision of food, accommodation, transport, logistics, broadcasting of all kinds of sports – this, of course, costs a lot of money," Rizhenkov.
He noted that Belarus and other candidates have not yet given up the idea of holding the Games.
In May, the Extraordinary General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee proclaimed the Netherlands as the host country that would host the second installment of the Games. However, the country declined the honor in June citing financial issues.
Following the decision, Turkey’s NOC said the country may host the next European Games in cities such as Istanbul, Mersin and Antalya, which all have the necessary infrastructure.
The Baku 2015 European Games is the biggest sporting event in Azerbaijan's history. The country was awarded the Games by the European Olympic Committee in December 2012.
Azerbaijan gathered over 6,000 athletes to compete in 20 sports, 16 of which are Olympic sports and 12 of which are qualifiers for 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Russia grabbed the most of the medals at the Games, 164 in total, 79 of which are gold. Azerbaijan came in second with 56 medals, 21 gold, and Great Britain followed with 47 medals, 18 of which were gold.
Before the closing ceremony in Baku, Head of the Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov said that he did not rule out the possibility that Russia would hold a European Games in the future.
"As for Russia, at the moment, we have already formed quite a tight schedule for major sports events,” stressed Zhukov. “We will host the World Cup in 2018 and the Winter Universiade will be held in Krasnoyarsk in 2019. These tournaments require significant financial costs, and, most importantly, very careful preparation. But in the future, we will certainly consider the possibility of organizing the European Games in Russia.”
Zhukov said that right now at least four cities could take these Games, which are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi and Kazan. “There is the necessary infrastructure, facilities, all the conditions for guests and participants. So we consider the possibility to hold the European Games in Russia in the long run.”
The next European Games will be held in four years. The flame of the European Games 2019 will be lit in the ancient Ateshgah Temple in Baku.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz