POSTED: Wednesday January 7th 2015

A New Year message from Patrick Hickey, President of the European Olympic Committees and IOC Executive Board Member

Rome; 07 January 2015: "At the European Olympic Committees headquarters in Rome it feels like we have been waiting for 2015 to arrive for the past 20 years. So it is very exciting that this seminal year for European sport is finally here.

Since the era of my esteemed predecessor as EOC President, Count Jacques Rogge, it has been the EOC's dream to stage a continental multi-sport Games for Europe. We are now just over six months away from realising this dream. On 12 June the Opening Ceremony of the inaugural European Games will take place in the wonderful city of Baku, Azerbaijan, signalling the start of 17 days of competition between more than 6,000 athletes hailing from all 50 EOC member countries.

Introducing these Games to Europe and developing the concept at every future edition is a strategic priority for the EOC. The purpose of the Games is to serve the specific needs of our member NOCs and their athletes. The European Games will achieve this by providing opportunities for success for NOCs on a continental scale leading to new sources of funding; offering athletes more qualification opportunities for the Olympic Games, thus reducing costly and tiring travel schedules; and giving them valuable experience - only one year out from an Olympic Games - of living, training and competing in a high-pressure Games-time environment.

My EOC Coordination Commission's next and final visit to Baku will be in February and I am confident that Chairman Spyros Capralos will be able to issue another excellent progress report afterwards. Right from the beginning of these Games we have enjoyed the total support of Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Azerbaijan's First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva, who is also Chair of the Organising Committee. Meanwhile the Baku 2015 European Games Operations Committee has been led expertly by Azerbaijan's Minister of Youth and Sports, Azad Rahimov.

It is the final lap of our race in preparing for the European Games and I encourage everyone to keep pushing for the line to make Baku 2015 a truly fantastic inaugural event.

2015 is set to be a very important year for the Olympic Movement as a whole as we lay down our new roadmap in the form of Olympic Agenda 2020. I would like to congratulate IOC President Thomas Bach for the success of December's era-defining IOC Session in Monaco. His vision to propose, and see through, such positive change has been remarkable. The unanimous adoption of all 40 recommendations on Olympic Agenda 2020 is testament to how well he has communicated his vision to his friends, colleagues and stakeholders in the Olympic Movement over the past year. The EOC fully supports Olympic Agenda 2020 and we will do everything we can to ensure it is adopted in full by Europe's sporting bodies.

Monaco's IOC Session was also an important moment for Kosovo, a country which has been sadly scarred by war and poverty in recent times. I was therefore delighted that my colleagues at the IOC voted to fully recognise the Olympic Committee of Kosovo. It is the right decision for this young country which is desperate to use sport as a tool for social development and wellbeing. Kosovo is now part of the European Olympic family and has therefore been invited to attend Baku 2015. I look forward to seeing Kosovan athletes compete shoulder-to-shoulder with their brothers and sisters from across Europe this June.

2015 is set to be another fantastic year for European sport - may I wish you all a successful and peaceful year ahead."

Yours in friendship in sport

Patrick Hickey, President of the European Olympic Committees

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Keywords · EOC · Patrick Hickey · Jacques Rogge · Olympics · Baku 2015

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