Chef de Mission, The Netherlands
1) Why has it taken so long for Europe to stage its first continental Games?
That’s quite a hard question. Well I wasn’t here 50 years ago when they started the Pan-Am Games and the Asian Games but one of the causes could be that we’re quite a small continent, quite well organised and structured. Most of the European Sports Federations were able to organise their own continental championships, which they did already for a long time quite well. So there was not a special need for the Federations to have it organised by a multi-event. That could be a cause but I’m not sure. But I think it’s a missing link if you see what’s happening by the globalisation of the world.
2) What makes Baku the perfect host city to stage the inaugural European Games?
It's a city which has a lot of power and ability to organise it fast, and they were really willing to do it because they want to show to Europe that they’re part of Europe. And that also of course has something to do with the possibility of creating a good infrastructure and new venues.
3) How big do you think your team for Baku 2015 will be and how many sports will you be represented in?
Probably around 120 to 125. I’m not sure yet. And we’re going to be competing in 17 sports.
4) How important is it for the success and appeal of the European Games that some sports afford athletes the opportunity to qualify for Olympic Games?
It is of very big importance. I think that’s also one of the reasons that the level of competition for Baku is increasing with the expectations from two years ago. Because of qualification for Rio , top athletes are going to Baku to compete because it’s a reward for them to reach Rio. So I think it’s one of the key indicators of making the event a success with the level of competition.
5) What is the significance of the Games for the European Olympic Movement and how confident are you that they will become sport’s flagship event on the continent?
The calendar of World Cups and all kinds of competitions is increasing. So it’s hard for a lot of smaller sports to organise a well-organised European Championships still. So for a lot of those Federations, another multi-event is beneficial because they can attract more attention to the sports than with a small European Championships in whatever country in Europe. I think an ideal schedule would be that you have one year a European Championships, one year a World Championships, one year a multi-event or a continental event and one year the Olympics.
6) How impressed have you been by the facilities to be used for the European Games and the work of the Baku 2015 Organising Committee in ensuring their delivery and readiness?
Quite impressed. The ability to organise it in such a short time and I think was there there two-and-a-half years ago. From where there were then, and where they sit now, organisational wise, it has been a great effort. The venues, the logistics, the transport, all those kinds of crucial areas are very, very well done. The new venues and restructures are all state-of-the-art and very good.
7) Are there any sports not represented that you would like to see in the European Games?
Well as a guy from Holland and looking to the Olympic sports we’re quite good at, we’re missing a few but I can understand why they’re not organised at the first European Games. But for us, big Olympic sports like equestrian, rowing, hockey; it would be nice for us to have them on the programme.
8) How symbolic is it that the first ever European Games will take place in a country that has experienced a major re-birth of its own since gaining independence in 1991?
It has something of a symbolic feeling, I understand that. I think it's important for the country that they want to show Europe that they’re a part of Europe.
9) How interested do you think the public in your country will be in the Games?
Well it is increasing. It's getting more attention in the newspapers and on the news and that has everything to do with the level of competition. But they’re only going to be interested if they know it’s the best of Europe competing there and because the level of competition is growing, the attention of the crowds and the public is growing. So it’s good to see that it’s increasing.
10) What are you looking forward to most at Baku 2015?
Well I’m looking forward to having in Europe a world class level of performance in perfect circumstances. That’s what I’m looking forward to, that they [Baku] really achieve that because that was a big question when they started. There were the doubts and I’ve got a feeling they're going to make it a high level competition.
Interview by Daniel Etchells