APA’s interview with Alexander Zhukov, the President of the Russian Olympic Committee and the first deputy speaker of the State Duma
– What is your assessment of Azerbaijan’s readiness for the first European Games?
– I have repeatedly visited Baku in recent years. I can say with confidence that the city has well prepared for hosting such a major sports event. Sports venues, living conditions for athletes and official representatives, and the whole infrastructure correspond to the highest requirements. It’s not surprising at all.
Azerbaijan has recently hosted a number of political, economic, cultural and sports events at a high level. I think the initiators of the first European Games have not been doubtful about Baku’s capability to decently host this new sports tournament even though the term of preparation was too short. I would like to wish good luck to the Baku-2015 Organizing Committee and Europe’s best athletes that have qualified to compete in the Azerbaijani capital.
– How many athletes from Russia will participate in the European Games?
– The Russian team is preparing for the first European Games with full responsibility. Selection of athletes for the team began last year. The Russian Olympic Committee will soon approve the final list. For the time being, however, it’s certain that 350 athletes will come to Baku. Russia will join the first European Games with a large number of participants. Russia’s top athletes will be sent to the European Games. We have a very good tradition; to open House of the Russian Team in major sports events. We will open such a house in Baku, too. Our joint sports history will be presented there. I’m sure this project will draw great interest from residents of the Azerbaijani capital and plenty of visitors of the European Games, including Russians.
What sports will the Russian athletes compete in?
– Our athletes will practically compete in all sports, including gymnastics, boxing, wrestling, aquatics, sambo, karate, beach soccer, volleyball and basketball. The European Games are held for the first time and of course, this will be an interesting competition for spectators and prestigious for the athletes. However, in the competitions to be held in Baku, athletes in a number sports will qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. And this will give a special coloring to the Games. The Russian team is seriously preparing for the sports event.
– In what sports does Russia claim for gold medal in the European Games?
– First of all, we will strive for victory in an unofficial team. Our team has a great potential. There are very promising and ambitious youngsters. Our team will act as a major force. The Russian team has a good chance to win gold medal in beach soccer. Our national team is still a certain trend in this sport. I am sure that sambo fighters and wrestlers will compete for the top ranks. We can hope for success in gymnastics artistic and gymnastics rhythmic. But, of course, it’s not the full list yet.
– Last month, Moscow hosted the presentation of the Baku 2015 European Games. You attended the presentation as well. We would like to get your impressions.
– The presentation of the Baku 2015 European Games in Moscow was grandiose. Azerbaijan’s First Lady, Chairperson of the Baku-2015 European Games Organizing Committee Mehriban Aliyeva made a great speech. Those who attended the presentation were impressed by the beauty of Baku once again and made sure that the European Games will be organized at the highest level.
– Probably, you have heard that some circles in the West are conducting an anti-Azerbaijani campaign on the eve of the European Games. Russia has also experienced such a campaign during the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. I would like to know your opinion on this issue.
– We strongly believe that sport is separated from politics. The same position is also demonstrated by the world sports community. And a black PR campaign ends at the time when the sports event begins and people get a chance to see how the people of the country and host city of the tournament actually live.
– Which officials from Russia are expected to take part in the opening ceremony of the Baku-2015 first European Games? Will you participate in the opening ceremony?
– I will certainly join the opening of the Games together with the national team and hope Russia will be represented at a high level in the opening ceremony.