Hickey: Athletics Committed to 2019 European Games

(ATR) EOC chief says European Athletics is assuring a "very substantial" program for the 2019 edition of the Games.

(ATR) The EOC president says he has assurances from European Athletics to stage a "very substantial" program at the 2019 edition in the Netherlands.

Pat Hickey confirmed the athletics plan in a briefing with reporters in Belek, Turkey after the EOC Extraordinary General Assembly on Saturday.

A major athletics program is conspicuously absent from the sports program of this summer’s inaugural Games in Baku due to long-standing European Athletics’ contracts. The street athletics event involves only pole vault and high jump events.

Athletics’ full participation in the 2019 edition had been in doubt after the former European Athletics president Hansjörg Wirz warned in recent months that his federation would only team up if the event added value to the sport’s growth.

But Svein Arne Hansen of Norway, who succeeded Wirz last month, has moved to allay fears about athletics participation in the 2019 European Games, which were awarded to the Netherlands on Saturday.

"I had a very good meeting with the new president of European Athletics in Brussels last Wednesday and he assures me that there will be full cooperation to have a very substantial athletics event in 2019," Hickey said.

Swimming will also only have a minor presence at Baku 2015.

But Hickey says meetings are being planned with the European swimming federation to ensure the 2019 Games offers a much bigger aquatics program.

The European Olympic Committees is not putting any cap on the number of sports on the program of the 2019 Games, although organizers tell ATR they envisage 15-17.

"We are inundated with applications from federations to join the European Games," Hickey said.

"Amazing the letters we are receiving… and we’ll receive 10 times as many after the Baku Games."

Hickey said the EOC was encouraging an innovative approach, with the inclusion of sports popular in the host countries – such as sambo in Baku.

With the initial 10-sports plan for Baku 2015 rising to 20, Hickey was asked if the first European Games had become too big for its own good and if the 2019 edition should be smaller.

"It’s horses for courses. We are back to the tailor-making thing. We didn’t force them to do anything. The Netherlands have a different vision," he said.

Hickey with"We could jump to Prague the next time or Lyon in France," the EOC chief said.

He said there was already interest in the 2023 Games.

"One of the five cities that we were speaking with have made a definite bid for 2023. It’s back on the eastern side of Europe," he added.

"It’s not official. They haven’t written documents but have said to us they will be the first to put in their nomination. They told me a few weeks ago."

Hickey said he was "very happy" that four of the five 2024 Olympic bids were from Europe – Budapest, Hamburg, Paris and Rome.

"It’s fantastic for Europe to have such a quality of cities bidding," he said.

"This is also very good for the European Games concept. It means that any of them could decide next time around to go for a European Games bid."

Hickey on Human Rights Issues

The European Olympics boss responded to human rights groups demanding he pressures the Azerbaijan government to release wrongfully imprisoned jailed activists and journalists ahead of the Baku Games.

"We are very sympathetic to all these situations but we don’t have the right to tell a sovereign government what to do or how to behave," he told reporters in Belek.

"I have a very good relationship with everyone there [in Baku] and naturally we would speak about these things."

Hickey says he met with Human Rights Watch officials in Dublin, Ireland two weeks ago. He also "listened to their concerns and took note of them" at a European parliament in Brussels last week.

Remarking on the human rights questions which faced the IOC ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, he added: "We are not in a position to enforce anything on anybody."

Reported by Mark Bisson

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