Author: Sanan NADIROGHLU
In 2015, the list of continental tournaments was extended by new mass competitions. The First European Games launched in Azerbaijan were among the most prestigious tournaments on the continent. The Second European Games were held four years later in Minsk. And the third one is slated for the summer of 2023 in Krakow and Malopolska region of Poland.
Meanwhile, although the continental games are three months away, the organizing committee has not yet decided on a number of important issues. Even the competition programme has not been fully approved. For athletes, the upcoming competitions in Poland will be a good test - most sports can be included in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. It is expected that, due to the licensing nature of the competition, we will see some serious competition at the Games.
Chances of national team
The programme for the upcoming European Games includes archery, 3x3 basketball, synchronised swimming, athletics, badminton, beach handball, boxing, breakdancing, rowing slalom, fencing and other sports.
Unfortunately, the list of competitions does not include wrestling, which is a traditional sport for Azerbaijani athletes. Our athletes always win medals in this sport and occupy leading positions in the world rankings. Therefore, the absence of this discipline may seriously affect the number of medals for the Azerbaijani team. Gymnastics, which has been developing rapidly in Azerbaijan in recent years, is also not included in the programme.
In the previous European Games, judo competitions had the status of a continental championship and two medals were awarded to the winners. This year, however, only team competitions will be held in judo. Therefore, Azerbaijan will not be represented in the event. Secretary General of the Azerbaijan Judo Federation, Rashad Rasullu, explained the decision as follows: "This year we will see a mixed team competitions at the European Games. Most likely we will not take part in them, as we don't have women judokas in heavyweight categories. During this period, our judokas will be preparing for other prestigious competitions."
Despite the inclusion of sumo in the programme of the 3rd European Games, competition in this discipline will be held under non-competitive rules. In this case, no medals or diplomas will be awarded to the athletes. The European Sumo Federation is currently negotiating the inclusion of sumo in the main programme.
The European Wrestling Association has also submitted an application to include the sport in the programme of the Games. Discussions are underway to include at least two of the three wrestling disciplines - Greco-Roman, freestyle and women's. The Polish side said that this would require additional sports equipment and volunteers. On the other hand, extending the competition period due to the increased number of sports can cause problems. The organisers therefore announced that a final decision will be made in April.
Azerbaijani athletes will begin preparations for competitions in Poland next month. The number of delegations and sports in which Azerbaijan will be represented will be determined in May. Kickboxers are the first to start training camps in Poland in preparation for the continental games. It is possible to predict that the Azerbaijani athletes will be one of the main candidates for medals in boxing, karate and kickboxing. At the same time, Azerbaijan's chances for medals are low in the newly emerging sports of padel and teqball.
In his interview with Polish television, Mayor of Krakow, Jacek Majchrowski, announced his intention to hold the European Games with maximum savings. According to him, no additional infrastructure will be built for the competitions: "The European Games in Baku and Minsk were organised at a high level. New facilities have been built or restored in both countries. But there is no need for that in Krakow and Malapolska. We have the necessary facilities. We should try to use the existing arenas. There is no need to spend money on the construction of new ones. We will try to make the Games a celebration. Today mass sporting events play the role of harbingers of peace."
Mascots for the upcoming European Games in Poland have already been announced. These are a dragon called Krakuszek and a salamander called Sandra. The slogan of both mascots is "We are together!"
Upon the recommendation of the International Olympic Committee, Russian and Belarusian athletes will not be admitted to the European Games in Poland. More than 2,000 athletes from 48 countries are scheduled to take part in this sporting event. Competitions in 29 sports will be held at 24 facilities.