Baku has been praised for the progress it has made in preparing for the inaugural European Games in 2015 with Patrick Hickey, president of the European Olympic Committees (EOC), predicting that some of the facilities will be superior to Rio 2016.
Hickey had been given a tour of the venues ahead of the start of the second EOC Coordination Commission meeting here, which was opened by Azerbaijan’s First Lady Bak, chair of Baku 2015.
The event is expected to feature 18 sports and most of the venues have now been finalised, including boxing, fencing, karate, taekwondo and volleyball being held in the state-of-the-art Crystal Hall, located on the coast near National Flag Square; the hall was built specially for last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which was staged in Baku.
“The venues are fantastic,” Hickey told insidethegames. “There are no worries here whatsoever about infrastructure – it is superb.”
The Athletes’ Village which is expected to host up to 10,000 athletes and officials during the Games, which will take place between June 12 to 28, is already nearly completed.
“The Village is amazing,” said Hickey. “This will be a big disappointment for many athletes when they go to Rio  after the quality of the accommodation here. The Baku 2015 organisers have placed the athletes at the forefront of preparations for these Games, and the well designed and serviced apartments and living areas in the Village are a testament to the thinking that has gone into providing the best conditions possible for the athletes at the first European Games in Baku in 2015.”
Aliyeva emphasized that the Games are a national priority for Azerbaijan, which most people expect to be a launchpad for another bid for the Olympics and Paralympics in 2024.
“I would like to once more underline that the people of Azerbaijan highly appreciate these Games and realize the responsibility for the Games that will play a great role in the history of European sports,” she told delegates.
“At the same time, the Government of Azerbaijan has been providing all types of support to these Games and is doing its utmost to make sure that they are held successfully and European sportsmen deliver brilliant performances,”
Baku is also close to finalizing its executive team.
Several positions have already been filled, including former United States Olympic Committee chief executive Jim Scherr as chief operating officer.
Another American, Doug Arnot, the executive vice-president, Director of Games Operations at London 2012, has also been working here already for several months.
Hickey, however, could not resist poking fun at the number of Americans involved in the preparations here during his opening remarks of the meeting.
“Just in case anything goes wrong with our tape we will ask our American friends here for a loan of Barack Obama’s recording of the meeting,” a reference to recent allegations that the Americans have been spying on their European allies.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.