The European Games is run in the same way as the international Olympic Games, but is contested by European nations only. The championship was announced by the European Olympic Committees at the 41st General Assembly, which took place in Rome over December 2012. At this Assembly 84% of the National Committee voted in favour of the Continental Games. The first-ever European Games took place in June 2015 and were held in Baku, Azerbaijan with the Opening Ceremony on 12 June and the Closing Ceremony on 28 June. The structure of the event is expected to keep following Olympic traditions, and be held every 4 years as the original games are. Several cities have already expressed their interest in hosting the Games’ Second Edition in 2019.
These games are not to be confused with the European Sports Championships, which is organised by the individual Sports Federations in Europe that brings the various recognized Championships in different games together under a single brand. These events are actually not related at all, but because they are both convened at the same time and are both relatively new additions to the competing landscape (the European Sports Championships will be held in 2018 for the first time) they are sometimes seen as being connected. With the European addition, every continent now hosts its own Olympic-style Games. Countries can compete in the international Games and also in those that are held on their continent, whether these are the Pacific Games, the All-Africa Games, the Asian Games or the Pan-American Games. As they grow and develop, the influence of the European Games, and the scope of their sporting events, should increase.
The inaugural European Games featured almost 6000 competing athletes, from 50 countries, vying for medals in 20 sports. The competitors were all selected and managed by their respective countries’ National Olympic Committees, which included those from Great Britain, Monaco, Serbia, Lichtenstein and many other expected and unexpected nations. A wide range of people and governments were represented within the 50 participating countries, from Albania to the Ukraine. Of the 20 sports that were contested at the Games, 2 are not represented at the traditional Olympic Games, namely Karate and Sambo, and Basketball and Football were played in a non-Olympic format. The other sports all followed Olympic guidelines and traditions, with the main difference between the European and Olympic Games’ sporting events being that less of them were represented in the European proceedings. The remaining 14 sports in the Games included the Aquatic disciplines of Diving, Swimming, Synchronised Swimming and Water Polo, Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Beach Soccer Fencing, Karate, Para-Judo and Boxing. Canoe-sprinting and BMX, Mountain Biking and Road Cycling were also contested and Gymnastic was well-represented through 5 of its disciplines, namely Trampoline, Rhythmic, Artistic, Aerobic and Acrobatic.
Management and Future Developments
The European Games is under the stewardship of Patrick Hickey, President of the European Olympic Committees. A Coordination Commission of participating countries was established to oversee the 2015 Games’ organisation and is expected to continue to do so in future, including facilitating communication between all interested parties and stakeholders. Each Host City will establish an Organising Committee which will be monitored and assisted by the Coordination Committee. More sports and possibly more surrounding events and celebrations should be added over time as well.