In December 2012, the Olympic Committee gave Azerbaijan an honor to hold the first European Games in Baku. It is expected that over six thousand participants – athletes and delegates from almost 50 athletic federations throughout Europe - will arrive in Baku during these first European Games that will be held on June 12-28, 2015.
On 5 February 2015, Baku hosted the 5th meeting of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) Coordination Commission, which made a final check of Azerbaijan’s preparedness for this historically important athletic tournament.
President of the European Olympic Committees Patrick Hickey stressed a strong team of single-minded professionals work here in order to ensure excellent organization of the first Baku European Games.
Chairman of the EOC Coordination Commission Spyros Capralos praised the achievements and improvements made by Azerbaijan in the course of preparation work, and highly appreciated sports infrastructure created in Azerbaijan in the past months.
Azerbaijan’s first lady, chairperson of the Baku 2015 first European Games Organizing Committee Mehriban Aliyeva said: “The Games will mark a historic moment for European sport, and for Azerbaijan it will be a good opportunity to popularize our country, traditions, culture and national history. We accepted the honor and responsibility of staging these inaugural Games. A number of venues are ready and undergo testing for the Games. Tests are organized in order to ensure that every detail is ready to create necessary conditions for sportsmen’s high-level performance this summer.
35 test actions and test competitions will be held until the inauguration of the Games in June. Next, test actions on gymnastics, boxing and wrestling will take place in March and April. Until the end of February, we expect to finish construction of permanent bases of all venues. This will allow us sufficient time for necessary installation works in April. 84 percent of our contracts have been made with Azerbaijani companies that have been working 24 hours a day, highlighting a positive side to our activity. I’m sure you will be amazed while visiting the venues. Our athletes village meeting world standards has over 1000 apartments with 7300 beds.”
In support of the first European Games in Azerbaijan, a huge scope of work was undertaken within a short time in order to erect modern sports infrastructure.
During the oncoming first European Games, Baku Olympic Stadium will be the most important facility that will host a great show on the opening ceremony of Europe’s historic sports event. Having almost 69 thousand seat capacity, Baku Olympic Stadium will be in a modern architectural style, exhibiting special beauty, and occupying a special place among similar facilities. It meets all international standards, and was provided with multifunctional stands, has running tracks and other types of infrastructure. The six-storey stadium is 62 meters high, and it covers an area equivalent to 50 hectares. Construction operations comply with International Civil Design Standard, as well as FIFA and UEFA quality standards. The stadium consists of the main and auxiliary stadiums, as well as mechanical building, it provides sectors VIP, CIP, sectors for the press and spectators with disabilities. The pitch will have four entrance gates, while the stands will have 26 gates.
Thus, originally designed Baku Olympic Stadium will be one of the most unique and grandiose athletic facilities in the world.
It should be noted that, within the framework of the first European Games, Baku Olympic Stadium is expected to stage track and field competitions.
Another venue known as Baku Sports City will comprise new athletic facilities that, during the first European Games, will be used to stage contests in water polo, beach volleyball, soccer and basketball. The area includes meeting venues, a conference hall, sector for cameramen and press professionals, parking lot and other support areas.
In order to develop water sports in Azerbaijan and organize competitions of local and international importance in the country, President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on 30 August 2012 on the construction in Baku of an Aquatic Palace meeting modern standards.
The palace would have three swimming pools. The pool 50 meters in length, 25 meters wide and 3 meters deep is intended for competitions. The second pool will be used for training. The length of the pool for diving will be 25 meters, the width 20 meters and the depth 6 meters. In addition, the palace will operate fitness rooms, a restaurant, conference rooms, offices, locker rooms, ancillary and utility rooms. Ancillary buildings and installations and a parking lot for 500 cars will be built on the premises as well. It was noted that the palace will seat 6,000 spectators.
During the first Baku European Games, the Aquatic Palace will stage competitions in various distance swimming, synchronous swimming and platform diving.
A sports center of trap and skeet shooting will be inaugurated in Baku suburban settlement Balajari in the run-up to the first European Games. The facility will comprise five shooting ranges. A 500-seat stand and viewer seats were built for each range.
The rifle and pistol shooting range is capable of staging 10, 25, 50 and 300-meter shooting competitions. This includes a 10-meter indoor shooting range. 80 athletes can simultaneously compete at the indoor range and 483 visitors will be able to follow the course of competitions. The semi-open shooting range will be able to stage 25-meter competitions participated by 50 athletes and viewed by 390 visitors. A semi-indoor shooting range was constructed to hold 50-meter shooting competitions that can be participated by 80 athletes at the same time.
Besides, the sports center includes a 300-meter semi-open shooting range that can stage competitions participated by 40 athletes at the same time, and provided with 414 seat capacity. There are also 10, 25 and 50-meter indoor shooting ranges with 500 seat capacity to stage both Olympics and World Cup finals, where 15 athletes can compete simultaneously.
Every rifle and pistol shooting facility includes separate rooms for athletes, doctors and coaches. The sports center of trap and skeet shooting will be one of the largest shooting sports facilities in Europe.
On 16 April 2014, President Ilham Aliyev attended the opening ceremony of the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku. The construction of the National Gymnastics Arena, which is an important part of the measures to further strengthen the sports infrastructure in the country, opens up broad opportunities for the organization of this international sporting event at a high level.
The façade of the building has a peculiar shape. There are displays on it representing interesting illuminative elements. One of the important features enhancing the value of the arena, which is designed primarily for gymnastics competitions, is the fact that it can be adapted to host other sporting events and competitions.
The gymnastics arena consists of the competition and work-out sections. Depending on the scale of the competition, the number of seats in the main section of the arena can be increased from 5,000 to 10,000.
In addition, as part of the first European Games in 2015, there are plans to hold a competition in six gymnastic categories, while in 2019 the world championship in rhythmic gymnastics will be hosted, where licenses for the 2020 Olympic Games must be awarded.
It goes without saying that such large scale competitions would be problematic, had it not been for the construction of modern athletic and concert facilities – capable of accommodating large-scale international sports and social events – in Azerbaijan after regaining of its independence.
Competitions participants and capital visitors will be fascinated by the beauty of Baku Crystal Hall, which was completed within extremely short time to be ready in time to host the Eurovision song contest. It should be noted that construction of the arena began on January 25, 2011, and finished on May 7, 2012, while the Eurovision song contest took place on May 22 to 26 (the semi-final and final). Baku Crystal Hall is meant to accommodate more than 23 thousand spectators. It is equipped with different dynamic lighting capabilities to highlight the membrane façade and create effective moods appropriate for different stages of the events. During the inaugural 2015 European Games, Baku Crystal Hall is expected to host volleyball, fencing, handball and karate, etc. competitions.
Having been commissioned 14 September 2012, the “8th km Stadium” of Baku will be slightly remodeled. The stadium was built to host matches of FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. The stadium with a seating capacity of 11,000 people has three entrances – one common entrance and entrances for the media and VIP, and five sectors. There is a room for family viewing and 17 VIP skyboxes. There is a large display above the stands and a total of 200 seats have been allocated for the media. In the lower part of the stands there are four locker rooms for the teams, rooms and conference facilities for FIFA media professionals, rooms for coaches, referees, doctors, a doping-control room, etc. There is also a control room to monitor security and a commentator’s booth. The stadium has a parking lot for 300 vehicles.
During the inaugural European Olympic Games, the 8th km stadium is expected to accommodate rugby competitions.
The "Sarhadchi" Sports Olympic Centre run by Azerbaijan Republic State Border Services (ARSBS), too, will be actively involved in the first European Games programme. The center has been open since 31 August 2009. It comprises a three-storey all-purpose stadium, two open-air grounds for various sports, a swimming pool, parking lot, utilities and a hotel. The center has four large displays to show different competitions that might simultaneously take place in the facility.
This athletic facility with seating capacity of 3250 people is going to host boxing competitions.
Built in 1974, the Baku Sports Palace is currently undergoing reconstruction to meet modern requirements in staging Badminton and Ping-Pong competitions during the oncoming first European Olympic Games. To provide disabled spectators and future paralympians with a full-fledge access to all sections of the stadium, 6 elevator-shafts and modern lifts will be installed in the building. A café will be opened in the Baku Sports Palace for athletes and spectators to use. The stadium’s rooms for drawing procedure, press professionals, VIPs and office facilities for the European Games’ Organizing Committee, etc. will be furnished and equipped in keeping with high standards.
Competitions of the first European Games will also be held in the Athletic and Concert Complex named after Heydar Aliyev and in the stadium named after Tofig Bahramov.
Needless to say, the foregoing list of athletic facilities falls short of the full number of Azerbaijan’s sports venues that will provide successful hosting of the first European Games in Azerbaijan.
The decision made by the European Olympic Committees to hold the first European Games in Baku lends evidence to the growing image of Azerbaijan as a sports power. International athletic organizations of European countries are confident that Azerbaijan, possessing powerful athletic infrastructure, will ensure a high standard of competitions at the inaugural European Olympic Games 2015.