Baku, June 12, AZERTAC
Athletes at the Baku 2015 European Games are ready to make history.
After being welcomed and inspired by European Olympic Committees (EOC) President Patrick Hickey at the Athletes Village on Thursday, some of the world's leading athletes hailed the start of the first edition of the event.
According to Italy's Niccolo Campriani, who won gold and silver medals in shooting at the London 2012 Olympic Games, it was time that Europe had its own multi-sport event. "The Asians have the Asian Games, the Americans have the Pan-American Games. It was just the old continent that was missing," he said.
Synchronised Swimming got the Baku 2015 Games underway on Friday morning (12 June), with Water Polo set to begin in the afternoon before the Opening Ceremony in the evening.
"You are standing here representing your country and that is a great, great honour," Hickey said. "You will be making history in the first ever European Games."
Alain Bertholon, chef de mission for France, said: "Now we have started, we mustn't stop on this path. The International Federations must make an effort, particularly those that are not here. It's very good that non-Olympic sports are here, like sambo and karate."
This was backed up by Ireland's Karen Dolphin, who has been competing in karate at international level for seven years. "It is a fantastic atmosphere," she said. "I watched London 2012 as a spectator and that was great, but it's nice to be on the inside. Normally, we don't get the chance to meet other athletes from different sports."
Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Rafig Huseynov, a former European champion at wrestling, said: "I am very proud to have such an event in my country. It really spurs us on. I will definitely win the gold medal."