Baku, Azerbaijan, May 12
By Elchin Mehdiyev - Trend:
The Games generally bring long lasting benefits to the country which organizes them, Poland's former minister of sports Joanna Mucha told Trend.
"I hope that it is going to be the same with the first European Games in Baku," Mucha said. "The European Games are the first games in the history of the world sports. By organizing them Azerbaijan will benefit both internally in terms of the development of infrastructure and the increase in social capital, as well as externally if the Games are used as a tool to promote the country as a modern and friendly place to invest and visit."
Mucha said that each city that hosts such an event has a unique opportunity, staging the most exciting sporting events for several days and finding themselves at the centre of the attention of the media and sport supporters all over the world.
"The example of London 2012 shows also that organizing such an event influences the development of sport in the hosting country," she said. "I refer not only to top sport and the success of local athletes, which is easier to achieve in front of your own audience, but also to the promotion of physical activity among people, especially children and youth. I do hope that staging the European Games in Baku will mean that more people in Azerbaijan take up an active lifestyle and discover the satisfaction and health benefits that being active can bring."
Mucha said that thanks to the media, especially TV and social media, all eyes will be on Azerbaijan in June 12-28, 2015.
"It will be a special year for Azerbaijan, just like 2012 was for Poland, when together with Ukraine we staged the UEFA EURO 2012," she said. "I had the pleasure and privilege to be the minister responsible for sport in Poland at that time. Let me just share with you what the benefits of UEFA EURO 2012 were."
"Hosting UEFA Euro 2012 was the largest investment challenge in the history of our country," she said. "New modern and beautiful stadiums were built. In the host cities new airport terminals, ring roads, railways and tram lines were built."
"It is estimated that in connection with UEFA EURO 2012 Poland was visited by over 650,000 foreign tourists," she said. "The number should be increased by almost 300,000 same-day foreign visitors who may not be classified as tourists. Total revenues related to foreign visitor arrivals in connction with UEFA EURO 2012 exceeded 1 billion zlotys, that is about 250 million euro."
"But, more importantly, surveys carried out during the tournament showed that the perception of Poland among the visitors was clearly positive: as many as 85% of the visitors positively evaluated the organization of the tournament in Poland; over 90% positively evaluated the atmosphere and declared a willingness to recommend a visit to Poland to their friends; almost 80% declared their intention to visit Poland again after the tournament," she said. "A major long-term success related to the holding of the championships in Poland will be the actual return of those supporters who declared they would do so."
Mucha said that holding the UEFA EURO 2012 final tournament in Poland was, of course, of great importance for the promotion of Poland around the world.
"The term "promotion" may seem quite abstract and actual profits related to it may seem difficult to calculate," she said. "However, I can give you some specific figures here, too. The Championship evaluation report showed that the advertising equivalent value for the individual Polish host cities ranged from approx. 200 to 450 million zlotys (that is about 50 to 100 million euro). As a result of the integrated promotion activities, in the first instance the holding of the UEFA EURO 2012, the value of the brand "Poland" increased from $269 billion to $472 billion. It was the largest national brand growth recorded in 2012 among all the 100 countries surveyed by the London-based Brand Finance Institute."
In Mucha's opinion, it is crucial that we are true to the core values of the sport movement as expressed in the Olympic Charter which confirms the autonomy of sport.
"I think that sport should not be used as a political tool and sport arenas should not be misused to present people's political convictions," she said. "It is important to concentrate on sport as a tool to unite rather than divide, to teach respect and fair play. We should go back to the idea that the Games are meant to unite people and nations. I hope that the first European Games in Baku are a real celebration of European sport."
Baku 2015 is the first-ever European Games, an exciting and innovative multi-sport event for the continent that will take place on June 12-28, 2015.
There will be a total of 20 sports at Baku 2015: 16 Olympic sports and four non-Olympic sports. More than 6,000 athletes from across Europe will be representing their nations over 17 days of competition.
Baku was awarded the games by the European Olympic Committees (EOC) in December 2012.