For the first time in its history, the Summer European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) will take place in the Caspian region. In 2019, more than 4,000 athletes from 50 European countries are expected to arrive in Azerbaijan and compete in 10 different sports categories, including gymnastics, basketball, swimming and tennis.
The decision to host the event in Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku, was agreed upon in Zagreb, Croatia over the weekend. During a two-day meeting of the 46th General Assembly of the European Olympic committee, Azerbaijan’s Youth and Sports Minister Azad Rahimov, Vice-President of the Azerbaijan National Olympic Committee Chingiz Huseynzade met with the president of the European Olympic Committee (EOC) Janez Kocijančič, and EOC Secretary General Raffaele Pagnozzi and signed a memorandum on November 25.
Chingiz Huseynzade spoke exclusively to Caspian News about the upcoming games, preparations underway to host them, and how building large event management capacity has grown Azerbaijan’s workforce.
“The European Youth Olympic Festival comes to Azerbaijan after two other major sporting games,” Huseynzade said.
“The sports complexes constructed for the first European Games in 2015 allowed us to spend less money when we held the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games earlier this year,” he said, referring to the games held in May.
Next year Baku will host the World Judo Championships, the BMX World Championship cycling race, the AGF Junior Trophy and the FIG World Cup 2018 gymnastic tournaments.
“Not every country can boast of having hosted so many international sporting events,” Huseynzade said.
Hosting large international events, including the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix and the Eurovision Song Contest, has helped develop the country’s workforce of skilled labor and event volunteers.
“I think we will not invite any foreign event management [companies] this time, as we already have specialists in all sectors, including security and accommodation, food, and transportation,” Huseynzade told Caspian News.
“Despite our worries that people wouldn’t come to the first European Games, all the tickets were sold out, even for those sports that are not popular in Azerbaijan, which means that we’re achieving our main goal of developing sports in the country,” Huseynzade said.
Popularizing sports is not the only goal leaders in Baku had in mind when they set out to win the bid to host the 2019 Summer EYOF. Azerbaijan is also looking to further develop its budding tourism industry.
The Caspian coastal country gets over 2.5 million visitors per year thanks to its ability to accommodate roughly 40,000 tourists at any given time in over 560 hotels. Over 730 tourism companies are in operation. According to Azerbaijan’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, nearly two million tourists visited Azerbaijan within the first eight months of this year, and spent nearly $765 million.
In addition to promoting sports and tourism, Huseynzade said Baku’s decision to host the games also has “political” importance.
“Now, we again demonstrate Europe that we are traditionally a European country with European values, having developed multiculturalism and tolerance,” said Huseynzade.
EYOF has both a summer and winter edition, which take place in the same year. The 2019 Winter EYOF games will be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Sarajevo & East Sarajevo.