Azerbaijan Owes Paralyzed Austrian Teen

(ATR) Synchronized swimmer struck by bus at 2015 European Games needs help from Azerbaijan government.

(ATR) Nearly two years after Vanessa Sahinovic was struck by a bus in the athletes village for the 2015 European Games in Baku, she still has not received any compensation by the government of Azerbaijan, host of the event.

Austrian National Olympic Committee president Karl Stoss, speaking on the ATRadio podcast, says the Azerbaijan government has failed to agree to a compensation deal for the synchronized swimmer paralyzed in the accident.

Sahinovic was 15 when she was run over in the athletes village along with two companions.

Stoss told ATR that the first European Games in Baku "are still a very sensitive topic in Austria", citing the bus tragedy which has wrecked the life of Sahinovic.

"We and Vanessa still have not received any compensation payment from the government and this is for us a very difficult point to accept," he says.

"We try to find a way with the officials in Baku to find a solution for this poor girl," he said.

Sahinovic suffered a fractured spine and other injuries that required a 10-hour surgery. Her teammates were also hurt but less seriously. They also have not been compensated by the Azerbaijan government.

Sahinovic, now 17, uses a wheelchair and faces a lifetime of therapy and special care.

Around the Rings is told that a proposed compensation deal of around $2 million was originally mutually agreed upon but written confirmation from the Azeri government never followed.

Both former European Olympic Committees president Pat Hickey and his successor Janez Kocijančic have failed to strike an agreement.

EOC secretary general Raffaele Pagnozzi tells Around the Rings the EOC has done all it can to elicit a response from the government.

"We are of course concerned and using our best offices to contribute to a favorable solution.We have intervened directly, and continue to follow the issue, in the interests of the athlete with the scope of finding a concrete solution and we are confident a good solution will be found in time," says Pagnozzi via email.

He says the confidential aspects of the case limit what he can say.

"But do please rest assured that we are not limiting ourselves to a mere show of concern for the case but are doing all within our power, as the Austrian Olympic Committee well knows," says Pagnozzi.

Negotiations are taking place but there is "no progress and no end in sight", an Austrian NOC official told ATR. Another letter was sent to the Azerbaijan government recently but"no results, no payments yet", he said.

Attempts by Around the Ringsto contact the Azerbaijan government for comment have not yet been successful.

The Austrian NOC has so far paid about $760,000 in compensation to the Sahinovic family.

On the sporting side, Stoss said Baku 2015 was "not easy for the general public to understand" whether competitions across the 20 sports were at world-class or junior level.

"It was not a clear picture at all," Stoss said, claiming the European Olympic Committees have a major challenge on their hands to deliver a successful 2019 European Games.

"We have to find a way to do it in another way in Minsk, to maybe combine it with the [2018] European Championships because we have too many competitions now.

"So far we don’t have a detailed picture of what to expect from the sports program."

Stoss expressed concerns about the political situation in Minsk. The Belarusian capital, like Azerbaijan, has a poor human rights record.

"That’s not easy but we couldn’t find another host city. It’s very difficult to find host cities for such a big event. We have to discuss in the European Olympic Committees how we could go further. We have to maybe discuss it also on the political side," he added.

The EOC chose Minsk as the European Games host last October after preferred bidder Russia was sidelined over the doping scandal that has rocked the Olympic Movement.

Reported by Mark Bissonand Ed Hula

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