(Tom Hayward, Reuters) - Armenian Migran Arutyunyan failed to win his nation's first European Games gold medal, narrowly losing in the final of the men’s 66kg Greco-Roman wrestling, much to the delight of a vociferous Azeri crowd on Sunday.
Silver medallist Arutyunyan was subjected to a hostile reception from home spectators who chanted ‘Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan’ and cheered wildly for his Russian opponent and gold medalist Artem Surkov throughout an electric bout.
Arutyunyan’s compatriot Maksim Manukyan also fell short in the bronze medal bout for the men’s 85kg event, losing in another highly-charged affair against Turkey’s Metehan Basar.
Both Arutyunyan and Manukyan had enraged the crowd earlier by beating home favorites on their way to the latter stages before quickly disappearing into the safety of the changing rooms to escape the cacophony of noise.
"It is clear the judges were influenced by the public," Arutyunyan told reporters. "No matter, it is what I expected before I came here. It was very difficult for me to focus with all the pressure that was on me.
"However, it is very important for my country that we are here, each victory (in the preceding rounds) was important and an enormous amount is expected of us back home."
Around 30,000 people were killed during the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and though a ceasefire was called in 1994, fighting has broken out sporadically since.
On Saturday, Games chief Simon Clegg told reporters the event’s organizers were aware that anti-Armenian feeling would run high but said they were well prepared for any eventuality.
Armenian athletes had been loudly booed and jeered during the opening ceremony of the inaugural European Games in Baku, which run from June 12 to June 28.