The second edition of the European Games, the only pan-European multi-sport event directly aligned to the Olympic Games, will take place from 21-30 June in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.
With an array of world-class venues at its disposal and an army of over 8,000 eager volunteers, Minsk is well prepared to host the Games, which will be the largest event ever staged in the country.
Together with the local organisers, the European Olympic Committees (EOC) aim to deliver an exceptional and sustainable event that celebrates the continent’s best athletes. Another important goal is to build a bridge between Belarus and the rest of Europe, opening up the country to its continental counterparts and vice versa.
“We are trying hard to create a multi-sport event that will be second only to the Olympic Games,” said EOC President Kocijančič. “We are at the last stage of preparations for Minsk 2019 and I can tell you that we are very satisfied and are looking forward to an excellent Games that will be good for Belarus and good for Europe as a whole.”
Upwards of 4,000 athletes from all 50 European National Olympic Committees will compete in 15 sports at the European Games: 3×3 basketball, archery, athletics, badminton, beach soccer, boxing, canoe sprint, cycling, gymnastics, judo, karate, sambo, shooting, table tennis and wrestling.
The Games will be a crucial milestone for athletes, officials, National Olympic Committees and sports federations on the road to the Olympic Games, with eight of the 15 sports acting as qualifiers for Tokyo 2020.
European Athletics is using Minsk 2019 to officially launch Dynamic New Athletics (DNA), a new competition comprised of nine athletics events taking place immediately after the previous has finished. The two-hour, head-to-head format concludes with The Hunt, a distance medley relay race with a time-staggered start based on the points accumulated across the other events.
Judo and boxing, meanwhile, will use the European Games as their European Championships for 2019.
Minsk 2019 will be a sustainable Games, with 11 of the 12 sporting venues being existing facilities. All 12 sporting venues are located within 30 minutes’ drive from the Athletes’ Village, ensuring athletes can easily travel to training and competition facilities.
“Minsk is ready to host the Games,” said Spyros Capralos, Coordination Commission Chair for Minsk 2019, who added that the Athletes’ Village is one of the best he had ever seen. “You can really feel the enthusiasm of the local people and the volunteers, who are ready to offer their services for the success of these Games. These European Games will be a big success.”
In preparation for the influx of foreign visitors, the government of Belarus is allowing visa-free travel for up to 30 days for the Games while also ensuring easier border crossings and the waving of road tolls for athletes and guests to the Games.
In addition, the European Olympic Committees (EOC) have received assurances from the highest level of government that media freedom for local and foreign journalists during the Games will be guaranteed in keeping with the Host City Contract.
Other positive developments include an agreement to make all European Games venues, including partner hotels, smoke-free, while an MoU with UNICEF has also been signed to provide children with equal access to education and sport.
The Games are expected to have a positive cultural and socioeconomic impact on Minsk and Belarus, with a boost in tourism and awareness already being seen. Belarus was recently named by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 destinations globally to travel to in 2019. First-time visitors to Minsk are often struck by how beautiful, modern and clean the city is, in addition to the friendliness of the people who live there.
Minsk 2019 will be broadcast in up to 160 territories worldwide, with a global reach of more than 500 million potential viewers. In addition, an agreement with the Olympic Channel is expected to be signed soon, which would bring the total worldwide coverage to nearly 200 countries.
The European Games were first proposed in 1967 at the first General Assembly of the European National Olympic Committees, some eight years before the official establishment of the EOC. It wasn’t until 43 years later, in 2015, that the first edition of the European Games was staged.
The rationale behind starting the European Games in 2015 was to maintain Europe’s preeminent role in world sport, both in the athletic sense and as the leader in sport innovation and technologies. Europe is the birthplace of both the Ancient Olympic Games and modern Olympic Games, as well as the vast majority of Olympic and leading global sports. In addition, European athletes routinely win between 45 and 50 percent of the Olympic medals at Summer Olympic Games and over 70 percent at Winter Olympic Games.
The challenge for sport in Europe and in particular for NOCs is to be less reliant on government money. The European Games aim to help in this regard by raising the profile of Olympic sports and each of the 50 European NOCs. The Games should lead to more sponsorship and broadcasting opportunities both in Europe and globally.
The first European Games were held in 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. It was recently announced that Krakow, Poland is expected to become the Host City of the 3rd edition in 2023, subject to a vote by the EOC General Assembly later this month.