Less than eight months remain before the start of the II European Games in Belarus — the main sporting event of 2019 in this country, according to the organizers.
The sports competitions will be held from June 21-30, 2019 in Minsk. Their format is already known. It remains to be seen whether the forum will win popularity on a European scale, and whether they will serve as a catalyst for an influx of tourists to Belarus.
Initially, the Netherlands wanted to host the forum. Moreover, on May 16, 2015, at the meeting of the European Olympic Committee, this Western European kingdom was officially recognized as the organizer of the Second EuroGames. However, by June 10 of the same year, two days before the start of the first European Games in Baku, representatives of the country of tulips decided to abandon this venture. The reason for the withdrawal of their application was the government’s refusal to allocate 60 million out of the 125 million euros, which, according to local analysts, were necessary for organizing the Games.
In November 2015, the right to hold the II European Games was entrusted to Russia. However, it was not destined to become the hostess of the forum. The International Olympic Committee blocked the decision because of the country’s grandiose doping scandal. As a result, in October 2016 the forum finally found a host country: Belarus assumed the corresponding obligations. The decision was made at the meeting of the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee held in Minsk.
Question of Cost
The official budget of the first European Games in Baku totaled 1.12 billion euros. It is fair to note that Azerbaijan held the forum on an unjustified scale. For example, the costs for preparing and carrying out the solemn opening ceremony for the games, according to Azerbaijan Minister of Youth and Sports Azad Rahimov, exceeded 100 million manats (approximately 100 million dollars). This was approximately the same cost as the closing ceremony. Participation in the I European Games involved 5,730 athletes, and Azerbaijan assumed the costs for the arrival, placement and departure of all of the delegations, with the exception of Armenia (the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan due to Nagorno-Karabakh continues until the present). For the 17 days in Baku, 253 sets of awards for 30 types of sports were contested.
Belarusian officials immediately stated that the budget for the 2019 European Games will be much more modest. According to the first deputy head of the presidential administration, Maxim Ryzhenkov, it will total several tens of millions of dollars. At the end of October 2016, then Minister of Sport and Tourism Alexander Shamko provided a more accurate figure of 30-40 million dollars. He stressed that such is the assessment of international experts.
After half a month, at a meeting with the labor collective of JSC Mogilevkhimvolokno, Alexander Lukashenko said, “We thought that we would even see a profit. We’ll have to spend somewhere under $50 million during these years. It’s tears for the country. And maybe it is not necessary. The Europeans said they would help.”
The costs for preparing and holding the opening ceremony of the II European Games will be slim, the President promised. “We will make a heartfelt opening to show the soul of our people. We’ll do it nicely. It will cost even less than $1 million, and not 100 million,” Alexander Lukashenko emphasized.
As Minsk almost at the last moment agreed to accept the games (the threat of the disappearance of this large-scale forum from the international sports calendar was quite real), the European Olympic Committee assumed a portion of the costs. In particular, it will pay for the flights of the sportsmen and their coaches, as well as accommodations and meals for the European Olympic family. It will also organize a hospitality zone at its own expense. In addition, according to Belta, Belarus is exempt from paying its contribution to the European Games, equal to $20 million.
However, the accompanying costs will be very high. For example, the purchase of four new mobile television stations specially for the European Games will alone cost 23.3 million euros. According to former Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov, the program of preparation for the European Games included, among other things, an item for equipping the Metropolitan Clinical Hospital for emergency medical care.
And business has also not stood apart from the European Games. In particular, MTS promised to improve mobile communications along the main railways and to provide stable communications in the metro. “The result will be solid coverage inside the wagons all through the tunnels of the Minsk Metro,” said the head of the technical department of the company, Alexey Tyazhkih.
All previously-built sports facilities and their related infrastructures will become part of the European Games heritage. They can be used for organizing and conducting other competitions, including intra-Republic ones, as well as training centers for young sportsmen, trainings bases, etc.
The Road to Tokyo Runs Through Minsk
The list of 15 sports and the arenas where the competitions will be held is already known. The opening and closing ceremonies of the 2019 European Games, as well as the athletics competitions, will be held at Minsk’s Dynamo Stadium. Judoists and karate participants will perform at the Chizhovka Arena. The badminton tournament will use the Falcon Club Arena. The Minsk Arena will be the home of gymnasts and trampolinists for ten days.
Only two team sports will be presented at the II European Games. One of these is 3 x 3 basketball. This is a “pared-down”, street version of regular basketball. Each team consists of three sportsmen, and the playing area is half of a normal basketball court. The tournament for this Olympic sport (it is included in the program of the 2020 games in Tokyo) will take place at the Palova Arena.
The beach soccer tournament will be held at the Olympics Sports Complex. In addition, the sports complex will hold the archery competition.
Tournaments in sambo and wrestling will be held at the Palace of Sport, and boxing bouts at the Uruchye Sports Complex. Table tennis competitions will be organized at the Republic Olympic Training Center for this sport.
Competitions in bullet and bench shooting will be held at two specialized complexes. A road cycling race will be organized through the center of Minsk. Outside the capital there are only rowing competitions. All races will be held on the rowing canal in Zaslavle.
The competitions in various kinds of sports will gather the best athletes of the Old World. In 10 of these, qualifications for the 2020 Olympiad in Tokyo will be contested. On the other hand, the program lacks many popular sports. The continental forum is not as highly rated as the Olympic Games. That is why there will be no competitions in soccer, regular basketball, tennis, volleyball, swimming, etc. in Minsk.
The Hope for Tourists
At the end of October 2017, during an online conference on the Belta website, the deputy head of the Directorate for the II European Games for 2019, Anatoly Kotov, said, “According to our common, rather modest assessment made together with the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, and taking into account our experience with the World Hockey Championship and the experience of Baku, there will be no less than 30,000 tourists. Foreign tourists will come to Minsk during the EuroGames in order to cheer for their sportsmen, and to become acquainted with the capital.” The organizers expect more than 4,000 sportsmen from 50 countries, 2,000 judges, and 1,000 representatives of the mass media. For officials and fans, entry will be visa-free. Just as during the 2014 World Hockey Championship, it will be enough to show a ticket to the competition.
In addition, despite the rather complicated relations between Belarus and Russia in terms of the mutual recognition of visas, during the European Games the same mechanism will be in place as during the days of the World Cup in Russia. With the presence of a fan’s passport, foreign guests will be allowed to come to Belarus without a visa. In the same way, foreign sports fans will receive the right to transit from Russia to Belarus without visas for the European Games.
Sports tourism is popular in Europe, so visa-free entry, including overland transport, will certainly help attract fans from abroad. However, the vast majority prefers popular team or individual sports (for example, tennis), which will not be presented in Minsk. Even competitions with the participation of leading European athletes are not very interesting to foreign fans.
In order for the forum to not become a local product for domestic consumption, it is necessary to promote the European Games more actively throughout the Old World. This is understood by the Directorate for the II European Games for 2019. “The partnership agreements signed by the Directorate allow for the presentation of the European Games abroad. The Fund organizes various activities in Russia and the states of Europe during the year before the start of competition to present our country, using the corporate style of the upcoming European Games. Work is also continuing on the conclusion of rights to broadcast the competition. I would like to note that, in addition to Europe, agreements with China and New Zealand have already been reached,” Maxim Koshkalda, marketing manager of the Directorate for the II European Games for 2019 Fund, said at a press conference on June 26.