By Jonathan Rest in Rome
Baku in Azerbaijan is in line to host the inaugural multi-sports European Games in 2015, with the concept expected to get the go-ahead at the European Olympic Committees general assembly in Rome tomorrow.
Sportcal has learned that an EOC delegation, led by its president Patrick Hickey, has already conducted an evaluation of Baku's hosting credentials, and was left impressed by the city's plans.
The EOC will tomorrow receive a presentation from representatives of the Azerbaijan Olympic Committee, and the organisation is willing to sign the host city contract should the members back the European Games initiative.
The aim is to hold the European Games in May 2015, and as a result the EOC is keen to get the host city process under way as soon as possible.
While there remains lingering opposition from some international federations worried that there is no space for a new multi-sports event in the calendar - the council of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations continues to have objections - Sportcal has learned that the vast majority of European federations do back the idea, and that EOC members will support the proposal at the Rome vote.
Around 15 sports are expected to feature at the inaugural European Games, although European Athletics and LEN, swimming's European governing body, must still be convinced of the event's viability.
An EOC executive board member told Sportcal that the inclusion of swimming and athletics "is an absolute must" if the first European Games is to have "any credibility on the international sports scene."
The proposed quadrennial games, lasting 14 days, are budgeted to cost €182 million ($233 million) to stage and to bring in revenues of €124 million, with the difference to be made up by governments and/or host cities.
Should the European Games plan get the go-ahead on Saturday, it will be a major boost to Baku and the Azerbaijan Olympic Committee, which was left disappointed by its failure to make the shortlist of candidate cities for the 2020 Olympic Games earlier this year.
Baku received no votes out of the 12 on offer from the International Olympic Committee's executive board, as for the second summer Olympic Games bid race in succession the city was kicked out at the first stage.
The IOC’s working group report had questioned the “vast amount of infrastructure” that would need to be built in Baku to host the Olympics, and also cited Azerbaijan’s lack of experience in hosting major international sports events.
The Azerbaijan Olympic Committee believes a successful hosting of the 2015 European Games in Baku will add necessary weight to the capital's bid for the 2024 Olympics.
Earlier this week, Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, said that plans to initiate a European Games have been “very well studied.” Rogge led a similar study into such an initiative as chairman of the EOC in the mid-1990s.