Challenges Ahead for Minsk 2019 European Games

(ATR) The EOC tells Around the Rings that Minsk 2019 will be smaller than first European Games in Baku.

A man walks past the Belarus' Olympic Committee building in Minsk on July 18, 2016.
The International Canoe Federation has banned athletes from Belarus for a year from all International competitions including the Rio Olympics for violating anti-doping rules. / AFP / Sergei Gapon        (Photo credit should read SERGEI GAPON/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks past the Belarus' Olympic Committee building in Minsk on July 18, 2016. The International Canoe Federation has banned athletes from Belarus for a year from all International competitions including the Rio Olympics for violating anti-doping rules. / AFP / Sergei Gapon (Photo credit should read SERGEI GAPON/AFP/Getty Images)

(ATR) The EOC tells Around the Rings that Minsk 2019 will be smaller than the first European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.

With little over two years to go, the European Olympic Committees and organizing committee face a race against time to deliver a worthy successor to Baku 2015.

There is currently a lack of clarity over the size and scope of the Games. Chaired by prime minister Andrei Kobyakov, the organizing committee met last Friday and reportedly approved a plan of action. Venue plans, the sports program and contracts for the Games were among areas discussed, according to Belarusian Telegraph Agency. But there was no detail.

The EOC was very hands-on steering the organization of the inaugural Games in Baku. But there were no EOC officials present at the March 24 meeting in Minsk.

"No EOC presence was required for Friday’s meeting. It was an internal meeting of the organizing committee in Belarus," an EOC spokesman tells Around the Rings.

While Baku 2015 consisted of 20 sports, Minsk 2019 has been scaled back after the EOC’s problems finding a host. Preferred bidder Russia was dropped over the doping scandal a year after The Netherlands backed out because its government refused to commit finances to the project.

"The sports program for Minsk 2019 is still being finalized and we expect there to be approximately 15 sports," the EOC spokesman confirmed.

"The number of these sports which will offer qualification opportunities for Tokyo 2020 will be confirmed after the final number of sports has been confirmed."

The EOC will be hoping for a positive progress report across all areas of Games preparations when its coordination commission visits Minsk for the first time in late May. It was originally scheduled to visit in April.

Greek Olympic chief Spyros Capralos heads the inspection team. Capralos also headed the EOC’s inspection team for the Baku European Games.

When he was appointed to the role in January, he told ATR that Belarus had "excellent [existing] sport facilities" and infrastructure and a committed president of the NOC who is also president of the country, referring to Alexander Lukashenko.

But Capralos predicted that the Belarusian government’s low budget for the second European Games and the country’s human rights issues under Lukashenko would be challenges for Minsk 2019’s preparations.

In comments about the Games program, he said only sports with existing facilities would be selected.

The final line-up of EOC coordination commission members will be confirmed at the executive committee meeting in Skopje in May.

Reported by Mark Bisson

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