BAKU, (Reuters) - Patrick Hickey, president of the European Olympic Committees (EOC), says the opening days of the inaugural European Games have been “remarkable”.
The event on the shores of the Caspian Sea kicked off with an extravagant opening ceremony on Friday that cost an eye-watering $95 million and included an appearance from six-times Grammy Award winner Lady Gaga.
There has since been action in nine of the 20 sporting events and, although it is still at a fledgling stage, the medal table is topped by hosts Azerbaijan.
”It has been a remarkable debut for the European Games,“ Hickey said in a statement on Monday. ”I am absolutely delighted with how the first two days of competition have gone.
”On Friday we saw an exceptional opening ceremony and the sport that has followed has been equally impressive.
“It is great to see the host nation Azerbaijan do so well early on. Athletes from every corner of Europe have arrived in Baku determined to become the first European Games champion but also to compete in a spirit of friendship and respect.”
Spyros Capralos, EOC coordination commission chief for Baku 2015, said the introduction of events that are non-Olympic disciplines, like karate, proved how exciting and groundbreaking the competition had been.
“So far Azerbaijan and BEGOC (Baku European Games Operation Committee) have delivered exactly what they promised, first-class sport in stunning venues with a fully engaged local population,” Capralos said.
”I was particularly pleased to see Azerbaijan’s first gold come in karate, one of the four non-Olympic sports on the program using the Games to show just how exciting it is.
“Operationally it has been a great start to the Games but we must maintain these standards for the whole 17 days.”
The Games, which feature approximately 6,000 athletes from 50 countries, end on June 28.
Editing by Tony Jimenez