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09.12.2012, 20:53
European Games in Baku announced
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The European Games will take place in Azerbaijan in June 2015 and both handball and beach handball could form part of the new event’s programme. EHF President, Jean Brihault, reveals just what the Games could mean for handball
 

European Games in Baku announced

A decision made at the 41st General Assembly of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) in Rome on Saturday, 8 December 2012, will see the organisation of the first European Games Baku, Azerbaijan in June 2015. 

The EOC has announced that up to 7,000 athletes are expected to take part in 15 sports and two non-Olympic sports including archery, badminton, boxing, canoeing, fencing, judo, rugby sevens, shooting, taekwondo, table tennis, triathlon, volleyball as well as handball.

On the fringes of the Women’s EHF European Championship in Serbia, EHF President, Jean Brihault, spoke to eurohandball.com about what the inclusion of handball in the Games could mean for the sport in the future.

eurohandball.com: Where did the idea for a European Games come from?

Jean Brihault: The idea was first mooted more than a decade ago by the current President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge. 

The idea has been further developed and redefined over the past four years under the direction of EOC President, Patrick Hickey, and now the European Olympic Committees (EOC) have agreed to push forward with the idea, which I see as an exciting prospect for sport in Europe. 

My predecessor as EHF President, Tor Lian, was asked to join a group charged with producing a feasibility study into a continental multi-sport event, which would bring Europe into line with the other continents, where there are already well-established events such as the African and Asian Games. 

eurohandball.com: What role has the EHF played in the development of the European Games?

Jean Brihault: The EOC has said from the start that it wanted handball to be part of the project, and following a meeting with the leadership of the project in Lausanne, the EHF Secretary General, Michael Wiederer, and I made it clear that the EHF is interested in this new project.

We have also put forward the idea that we include not only indoor handball but also beach handball in the Games. I am pleased to say that this has been positively received by the EOC.

At this stage, based on the agreement of the EHF Executive and the Professional Handball Board (made up of representatives of the national federations, professional leagues, clubs and players) we have signed a letter of intent to say handball is interested in continuing to work with the EOC towards the inclusion of the sport in the Games.

The future inclusion of handball in the Games is as yet by no means certain. We have underlined the fact that that certain criteria and standards need to be met if the sport is to join the programme of the Games.

It is crucial that we consider factors such as the visibility of our sport and of course the financial and commercial implications. The EHF has existing commercial partners and contracts, which have to be respected.

Now that a decision has been reached on the organisation of the Games by the EOC, we can report back in more detail to the EHF Executive and our various stakeholders over the coming months and reach a consensus internally.

eurohandball.com: What does the European Games mean for the international calendar in the future?

Jean Brihault: Naturally the international calendar is an important consideration, and it is clear - and the message from our various stakeholders is also clear – that a European Games cannot add to the workload of players in the future. 

Assuming a first event is a success, we will have to look at how the European Games will fit into handball’s calendar of events.

The Games will be held every four years, with the next planned for 2019, and this will give us time to examine the options going forward.

The first European Games is planned for June 2015, and in terms of planning for the international calendar, not too far ahead in terms of our planning, but June is a good time for our sport (in the odd years) as there will be no clash with league matches and it takes place in a national teams period. 

eurohandball.com: What does the European Games mean for European handball?

Jean Brihault: We can see from the impact of the Olympic Games that a major international multi-sport games can serve to raise the profile of sport and its players.

Handball could play a major role in a future European Games and this can only serve to raise the profile of our sport not just in Europe but also worldwide.

The EOC has stated that the handball event itself will be organised on a technical and competition level by the EHF, which means that we can maintain the high standards we have set in our existing national team competitions such as the EHF European Championships.

We are still in negotiation with the EOC, but I can imagine the event in 2015 being played initially with eight men’s and eight women’s teams in indoor handball and eight men’s and eight women’s teams in beach handball. From the start both the men’s and women’s competitions event must be organised on an equal footing. 

eurohandball.com: Baku, an interesting first venue for the European Games?

Jean Brihault: Handball has a strong tradition in Azerbaijan, women’s handball in particular, and having bid for both the 2016 and 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, I am sure that Baku will have the infrastructure in place to organise a successful event. 

In the long term, the EOC will need to successfully realise the European Games concept and establish the event on the international sports market. To do this it is important to look beyond 2015 and identify a potential host for the Games in 2019.


TEXT: EHF / jjr
 
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