By Nazrin Gadimova
An official website and promotional video of the 30th European Championships on Rhythmic Gymnastics were presented in Baku on April 5.
The event brought together Vice-President of Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation (AGF), Altay Hasanov, Head of the Technical Committee for Rhythmic Gymnastics of the European Union of Gymnastics (UEG), Heide Bruneder, AGF Secretary General, UEG Vice President Farid Gayibov, Head Coach of Azerbaijani national team in rhythmic gymnastics, Mariana Vasileva, Marketing Director of the European Championships, Sabri Gulmaliyev and Referee of International Category, Director of the Championships, Natalia Bulanova.
Addressing the event, Altay Hasanov said all necessary facilities have been created at the National Gymnastics Arena where the Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championship will be held from June 13 to June 15.
Hasanov thanked Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for construction of such a beautiful building, adding that President of Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation, Mehriban Aliyeva, heads the Organizational Committee of the upcoming championship.
"The working group of the Organizational Committee has been divided into a number of units, such as units of accommodation, marketing, volunteers, health services, security services, as well as units responsible for the course of the competition, and the unit of media," Hasanov said, adding that the delegations will be accommodated in the sports village near the new arena.
Hasanov went on to note that the arena will be divided into two parts during the competition, adding that there will be one carpet at the first part and 11 more training carpets at the second. He also said teams will be qualified for the First European Games based on the results of the Championship.
"I want to say to all the fans that the games will be held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the beautiful National Gymnastics Arena. Our gymnasts need more support from the fans. I call on all fans to support our athletes in these competitions," he added, saying a large number of fans will come to Baku from Russia for the Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championship, as this type of sport is extremely popular in Russia," the vice-president of the AGF said.
"I cannot speak about the number of tourists from other countries, but I can underline that a number of foreign federations show interest in the new arena," Hasanov said, adding that the opening ceremony will be organized at the high level and the relevant work is underway.
Despite the Olympic principle, the federation won't content itself only with the performances themselves, he said. "We will try to please both the fans and the leadership of the federation."
Touching upon the First European Games to be held in Baku, Hasanov said it has become a historical event even before taking place, and noted that he is confident that the games will be organized at the highest level.
"The European Games program will include six gymnastic disciplines. The competition as a whole is a call for federations, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and for the entire Organizing Committee of the European Games," he said, expressing confidence that the organizers will successfully cope with the task and the European Games will be held at the highest level.
Speaking at the presentation, Heide Bruneder said the upcoming championship in Baku promises to be amazing.
"We are sure it will be a beautiful and amazing competition," Bruneder said, and wished the hosting country good luck.
She also appreciated good preparation of the upcoming event, and praised Baku's National Gymnastics Arena.
"I can say that it is amazing. The place for the training and competition is perfect, beautiful. We are not here for the first time for the European championships, and we got the possibility to see the new arena. It is amazing," she said.
Further, Bruneder revealed the new format of the upcoming competition, saying the new format will apply to the competition of the junior teams.
"In the past, we had competition with maximum four gymnasts and each gymnast could perform only one exercise. It meant only four exercises for each country. And now, it has been decided for the juniors to perform eight exercises. But we will only count six best scores per team," Bruneder said, noting that Azerbaijan has two gymnasts among 20 of Europe's best, all of whom are present in the group A of the competition.
Bruneder also said Azerbaijani gymnasts have made great progress in recent years.
"The athletes representing your country are among the gymnasts of top five strongest countries in this type of sport. I remember the last tournament during which the gymnasts from Azerbaijan won medals," Bruneder said pointing out that good conditions have been created in the country for holding the European Championship.
Speaking about the First European Games in Azerbaijan, Brudener said the idea of holding such an event is incredible and ambitious.
"Holding such a major event, the program of which includes 19 types of sports at once, is a great idea. As for gymnastics, it is a big celebration for us, which, aside from other things, will be a serious promotion of the rhythmic gymnastics as a sport. I hope that the first European Games will be successfully held in Baku," she added.
Representative of the UEG from Switzerland, Gilberte Gianadda, speaking at the meeting, said fantastic conditions and infrastructure have been created in Azerbaijan for gymnastics.
"The European Championship to be held in the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku has a great significance for the world gymnastics," Gianadda said, adding that Azerbaijan pays considerable attention to the development of gymnastics, the characteristic example of which is the construction of the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku.
Azerbaijani female athletes will achieve great results in the upcoming European Championship, he believes.
Addressing the event, Mariana Vasileva said Azerbaijani gymnasts will try to fittingly perform at the European Championship and satisfy the fans.
"Of course, we expect surprises, the first of which is the arena, for which I want to thank the country's First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva. I believe that this tournament will be remembered for not only the highest level of organization, but also for the high level of performance of athletes," Vasileva said.
Vasileva also added that Azerbaijani adult gymnasts did not participate in group competitions in the European championships held earlier.
"Thus, they will perform at the European championship at home for the first time," the head coach said, noting that in the group performances the team will take part in all-around and individual events.
"Some 20 gymnasts will compete in the individual event - Azerbaijan will be represented by two athletes out of those who showed good results in the last European Championship held in Vienna. One of them will be Marina Durunda. I have not yet made a final decision regarding the second candidate - it will either be Gulsum Shafizade or Lala Yusifova or Nilufer Niftaliyeva."
The ticket sales for the upcoming European Championship in Baku will begin on April 20, and will be available at the National Gymnastics Arena, around the city, as well as on the tournament's website.
The website of the event, to be held in Baku on June 13-15, can be found by the following link - http://baku2014.agf.az available in three languages - Azerbaijani, English and Russian. The promotional video can also be found following the link.
Some 258 gymnasts will compete for nine sets of awards in Baku. About 33 countries have made bids for participation in the championship.
Azerbaijani junior gymnastics team will perform the ninth, while the group team will perform the third. Azerbaijani gymnasts will perform sixth and seventh at the individual competitions.