Chief Operating Officer of Baku European Games Operation Committee (BEGOC) Simon Clegg has praised the inaugural European Games in Baku as "a huge success" as he was interviewed by AzerTag state news agency.
- "Baku-2015" First European Games have already went down in history. How much are you satisfied with the results of fantastic work as a person who led the operations for 30 months?
- I am incredibly satisfied with the results. I think this is the huge reflection of the significant amount of hard work that has been undertaken by many people in BEGOC and also the government, ministries and other government agencies over the last 30 months.
We had to compress normally six or seven years of planning for Olympic Games or Asian or Pan American Games into just 30 months. And this would not have been possible unless we have had great leadership and great cooperation from a number of different organizations. So, looking back on the 17 days of the Games I think undoubtedly it has been a huge success.
We have had unbelievable support from President Ilham Aliyev. There is no doubt there would not be the European Games were not it for the vision of President Ilham Aliyev and unless he was prepared to take the risks to say that Azerbaijan would organize this event in just 30 months.
And I have to say that I feel hugely honoured to receive Dostlug Order from President Ilham Aliyev. It is a great privilege for someone from outside Azerbaijan to be recognized in this way. For me personally to receive it from the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan is great privilege. But, of course, we also need to recognize a huge amount of other people who have also done a significant amount of work to ensure the success of the Games.
Of course, the Organizing Committee has also been very supportive. Particularly we are very grateful to the leadership that we have had from first lady of Azerbaijan, Chair of the Baku 2015 Organizing Committee Mehriban Aliyeva and, of course, Azad Rahimov, Minister of Youth and Sport and CEO of BEGOC.
- The Games sparked greater interest than it was expected. What about spectator numbers? In how many countries were the Games broadcast and how many people around the globe did watch the Games?
- I was hugely encouraged by the spectator numbers. I think to have an average 80 percent of attendance across all the venues across 17 days is an unbelievable result and perhaps the important legacy that we leave from hosting the Games in Azerbaijan. In terms of television and broadcasting, the Games were broadcast to 145 countries and 120 countries broadcast the Opening ceremony live. The total household population reach that we were able to achieve was around 823 million households across the globe that had access to the European Games through the television networks.
- What are the impressions of European athletes, heads of delegations, and sport experts about the Games?
- They were incredibly positive. I think many people leave this country today having unbelievable experience, having learnt something about Azerbaijan. They feel proud of their achievements, they feel proud of being part of making history for European sport here in Baku.
- What can you say about Baku-2015's contribution to the development of sports in Azerbaijan, Europe and in the world?
- One thing I am sure about is that many people in Azerbaijan now know much more about many different sports they did just 20 days ago. The people who have experienced in the firsthand in the venues or watching it on the television screens have been educated in sports they knew very little about. And hopefully that will inspire them to take up more sports. In terms of around the world, this has been very well received through the broadcasters. I have absolutely no doubt that the European Games now have the very firm position in the highly complicated, complex and congested sports calendar across whole of the globe. I think all of the athletes are already looking forward to the European Games in 2019.
- What is the main legacy left by the first European Games in terms of experience and infrastructure built in Baku?
- On the physical legacy, we have five new facilities here – the new Olympic Stadium, National Gymnastics Arena, the Aquatic Centre, the BMX facility and, of course, a wonderful new shooting range. We have also some temporary facilities that have been upgraded for the Games, like Baku Sports Hall and Heydar Aliyev Arena.
But in terms of human legacy, we have some 2,000 Azerbaijani full-time members of staff from the BEGOC who are experienced in organizing major multi-sports events, who will be better positioned to help deliver Formula-1 next year, Chess Championship next year, Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017, and four matches of Euro 2020 European Football Championships at the end of this decade. Other elements of human legacy are, of course, the volunteers. It was a fantastic experience for 12,500 volunteers who participated in the flamekeepers` program and 5,000 volunteers who contributed so amazingly to the Opening and Closing ceremonies.
- AzerTag was the official media partner of Baku-2015 European Games. How do you appreciate the role of AzerTag in terms of the coverage of the Games?
- AzerTag has been a major partner of us as our official media agency. We greatly enjoyed working with the agency. AzerTag has got a fantastic history not only in this country, but also across the whole of Europe. And therefore to use the agency to develop and deliver our messages not here in Azerbaijan but across the whole of the region and wider fields as well has been really important because this has been about showcasing Azerbaijan to the world. Without the support of AzerTag we would not have achieved the goal set by the leadership of the country.
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