The Baku 2015 Flame made a dramatic entrance to Baku on Sunday afternoon, beginning five days of events ahead of the European Games Opening Ceremony on Friday 12 June.
Arriving by boat at the Sutko Pier, the Flame embarked on a 16km relay around the city, led by President Ilham Aliyev during the first leg. First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva also took her turn carrying the first European Games Torch.
Other torchbearers included mugham singer Arif Babayev, and 2014 Youth Olympics Wrestling gold medallist Igbal Hajizade, who was followed by a parade of Azerbaijan’s famous Karabakh horses. The Flame was carried past Flag Square and Crystal Hall, with a giant model horse accompanying the final torchbearer who took it into the Maiden Tower, where it will stay overnight during its time in Baku.
Mr Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sport and Chief Executive Officer of Baku 2015, said: “The Journey of the Flame has fuelled the imagination of the Azerbaijani public over the past six weeks, and it was wonderful to see Baku take part in the celebrations Sunday evening with the same enthusiasm as people across the country.”
How did the recent series of Test events go, one wondered?
Simon Clegg is Baku 2015 Chief Operating Officer:
“Delivering the first European Games has been a massive undertaking for BEGOC and our partners in the Azerbaijani government, involving preparations on a city-wide basis, but we have always kept a strong focus on the athletes’ experience.
“Our test events and sport tests have allowed us to learn some important lessons based on a philosophy of ‘plan, implement, execute, review and refine’, and we are now better placed to deliver a successful Games as a result of these collective learnings.
“It is my firm belief that great sporting competitions make for successful sporting events, and at Baku 2015 we have spared no effort to ensure the stage will be perfectly set for Europe’s competitors to deliver the performances of a lifetime.”
Sport tests are events designed to ensure the readiness of Baku 2015 from a sport competition perspective, while test events are stand-alone competitions in their own right, with a broader range of functional areas involved.
Mr Pierce O’Callaghan, Baku 2015 Director of Sport, explained: “The series of sport tests has confirmed our readiness to host the European Games, ensuring that everything is in place for the athletes to shine across all 20 Baku 2015 sports.
“The sport tests have complemented the six major test events that we held, which allowed us to simulate Games-time operations across the full range of functional areas. By combining test events in key venues with a full series of sport tests, we have fully tested our operational readiness in the most resource-effective manner.”
The Irish boxing team was the first to arrive last week for a pre-games training camp though many other teams will only arrive two or three days before the Opening ceremony. As always you can follow the main news from Baku here on SportsNews Ireland and of course there is LIVE TV coverage (and highlights programmes) on Setanta Sport. Let the Games begin!