Armenia has not yet decided whether to participate in next year's inaugural European Games in Azerbaijan, the Armenian National Olympic Committee said on Monday, contradicting statements made by senior European sports executives.
Patrick Hickey, the president of the European Olympic Committee (EOC), expressed confidence about the Armenian participation in Europe’s biggest-ever multi-sport event at the weekend following an EOC conference held in Baku. “Armenia confirmed to us they will take part here at the European Games,” he was reported to say after talks with Armenian officials present at the conference.
“The Armenian National Olympic Committee (ANOC) believes that Armenian athletes should take part in the inaugural European Games to be held in Baku [in June 2015] to once again prove that they can defend Armenia’s honor and reputation everywhere,” the committee said in a statement. “Nevertheless, given the sensitivity and importance of the issue, the ANOC will make the final decision only after meetings with representatives of the sporting world.”
The statement said the ANOC president, Gagik Tsarukian, made this clear to Hickey and Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee, when they visited Yerevan last month. Hickey and Bach also discussed the matter with President Serzh Sarkisian.
According to Yuri Aleksanian, an ANOC spokesman, the final decision will be based on the ANOC’s discussions with the Armenian Ministry of Youth and Sport Affairs and various national sport federations.
“They have agreed to participate in the games next year and they will come to our general assembly in Baku in two weeks' time,” the Reuters news agency quoted Hickey as saying on November 5.
The ANOC was represented at the Baku session of the EOC General Assembly by its secretary general, Hrachya Rostomian, and another Armenian official. Its statement said the Azerbaijani organizers of the games assured them that they guarantee the safety of Armenian athletes.
The Azerbaijani government already gave such guarantees in September.
Aleksanian said Armenian security concerns mainly relate to Azerbaijani spectators. “The Azerbaijani said has said it will ensure that spectators behave themselves. But they won’t say how they will do that,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
It has not been uncommon for Armenian and Azerbaijani athletes -- notably wrestlers, weightlifters and boxers -- to participate in international sporting competitions held in each other’s country. They have been provided with around-the-clock security escorts in such cases.