Small states savour Olympic spirit in Athletics

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Baku, June 17, AZERTAC 

Track and field athletes from some of Europe’s smallest states have a unique chance to feel the Olympic spirit at the Baku 2015 European Games, according to Leo Kranz, president of the Liechtenstein Olympic Committee.

Athletes from Kranz's 160 square-kilometre landlocked country will combine with those from San Marino, Monaco and Gibraltar to form a single team under the banner of the Athletic Association of the Small States of Europe (AASSE) competing in the two-day battle for team medals at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday and Monday (21/22 June).

The AASSE is made up of 10 countries who compete against each other in the biennial Games of the Small States of Europe. Those not large enough to form their own teams combine annually to compete in the European Athletics Team Championships Third League, which has been adopted as the Athletics competition at Baku 2015.

And the European Games gives athletes from the continent's smaller countries the chance of a lifetime to experience the special atmosphere at a major multi-sport event, according to Kranz.

"Having a Small States Athletics team here is so important for countries like ours. We don't have enough athletes to form a team of our own, and the European Games has made it possible for some of our athletes to come and participate," he said.

"They don't know what it's like at a big event like this. They've never been to the Olympic Games because they are not at that high level. But here they get to see what it is like at an Olympics for the first time.

"They will feel the Olympic spirit and that is something they'd never be able to do otherwise."

Liechtenstein will contribute four athletes to the AASSE team, while nine have been provisionally selected from San Marino, and five from Gibraltar. Monegasque 800m runner and Opening Ceremony flag bearer Brice Etes will be his nation’s sole representative.

Many of them will compete in more than one event as they try to amass points over the 40-event programme.

Kranz admits the Games' only multi-national team is unlikely to be challenging for a medal on Monday, but says that, for his athletes, "it's just important that they're here".

"The most important thing is that they can participate here," he said. "They won't really be thinking about promotion or their ranking, they'll just be happy to be here."

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