By Nick Butler

Baku 2015 remain confident the swimming leg of the triathlon will be able to take place in waters close to the capital city ©AFP/Getty ImagesBaku 2015 remain "fully confident" a suitable location will be found for the swimming leg of the triathlon competition at the inaugural European Games, despite concerns being raised over oil pollution in local waters. 

Triathlon is one of 19 sports featuring on the programme, with men and women's individual events due to take place on June 13 to 14, with Olympic qualification places available for the winner of each individual event. 

At present the sport is due to take place in the heart of the Azerbaijani capital, with a finish at the Victory Celebration Plaza, and it is hoped the initial swimming leg can take place in nearby waters.

International Triathlon Union (ITU) secretary general Antonio Arimany admitted the issue has been "a concern" for both the ITU and the European Triathlon Union (ETU) over the last month, and they are "still to define with Baku 2015 the place where the swim will take place".

He added that, in a worst-case scenario, a duathlon competition consisting only of cycling and running will be held instead of the three-discipline format, meaning the sport will still feature but would no longer serve as an Olympic qualifier.

But he remains confident this will ultimately not be necessary, and this view was reiterated by Baku 2015 as they insisted an appropriate swimming venue will be found. 

With Olympic qualifying spots up for grabs, it is hoped the best triathletes in Europe will compete in Baku ©Getty ImagesWith Olympic qualifying spots up for grabs, it is hoped the best triathletes in Europe will compete in Baku ©Getty Images

"We face exactly the same challenges as every other major city to meet the ITU standards for water quality and as part of our ongoing preparations for the triathlon event at next summer's European Games, we continue to assess suitable locations for the swim leg of the triathlon," a Baku 2015 spokesperson told insidethegames.

"We are fully confident a suitable location will be agreed and confirmed soon and we continue to work closely with our partners at the European Olympic Committees and the ETU during this process.

"The first European Games will be athlete focused and as such we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure we provide the best possible conditions for the triathlon event.

"We expect a world-class competition as the gold medal positions for the men's and women's events will qualify for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics."

The issue of water pollution has featured prominently on the sporting radar in recent months following concerns raised about levels in the venues for various water sports at Rio 2016.

This particularly relates to sailing in Guanabara Bay, but also encompasses Copacabana Bay, where triathlon and open water swimming will take place, and Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, where rowing and flatwater canoeing events will be held.

Guanabara Bay, where sailing will be held at Rio 2016, has 78-times Brazil's legally allowed limit of faecal pollutions ©Getty ImagesGuanabara Bay, where sailing will be held at Rio 2016, has 78-times Brazil's legally allowed limit of faecal pollutions ©Getty Images

But while in Rio de Janeiro the problems related to high levels of sewage and debris, in Baku the issue largely concerns oil, with Azerbaijan in the midst of a "mass oil contamination clean-up project" to dismantle old refineries and clean up contaminated land.

"There will be a competition for sure in Baku, and if the water quality doesn't reach the level we will do a duathlon instead," said Arimany.

"We are pretty sure we will find a solution for the water.

"We are working hard on that and they are proposing a new place where they think the water quality is good."

"But we will wait for the water quality to test it first, and we can wait until the day before the competition if necessary, because the athletes understand it is an important safety issue.

"We are committed to organising a triathlon and that is what we are trying to do."

Arimany claimed that there are also no immediate concerns over whether the event remains as an Olympic qualifier, because the ETU has plenty of time to decide whether to use an alternative competition instead. 

"Fortunately our qualification period for the Olympics is the next two years, and then the ETU can decide which events will be European qualifiers, and they have decided that Baku will be that," he said.

"But if that does not happen, they have one more year to decide, so there is no hurry."

The European Games are scheduled from June 12 to 28 next year, with the triathlon qualification process due to begin later this month at the European Championships in Kitzbühel, Austria taking place from June 19 to 22.