Azerbaijan success vital for successful event – organisers

On the shores of the Caspian Sea, and with a vociferous home crowd roaring them on, the Azeris won three gold medals, one silver and three bronze in an impressive start to the competition.

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The hosts trail only Switzerland, who have also won three golds but more silver medals.

“Obviously we are naturally delighted with the success of the Azerbaijan team,” Clegg told reporters on Sunday.

“The success of the host nation early on in the games is a very important component of delivering a successful Games.

“On the back of a fantastic opening ceremony it’s then really important to start the competition well for the host nation and we are delighted with the results the Azeri athletes secured yesterday.”

Critics had suggested the event would struggle to attract interest in the Azeri capital given the absence of many of the continent’s high-profile athletes, particularly in swimming and athletics.

Organisers, however, said they were impressed by attendances on the opening day with 17,044 spectators present during nineteen sessions in seven venues across the city.

The Mountain Bike Velopark was the setting for the European Games’ first ever medals and the women’s cross-country event, won by Swiss Jolanda Neff, attracted a 98 percent attendance.

The Baku Sports Hall, venue for table tennis and badminton, attracted a 91 percent attendance and 90 percent at the Baku Aquatics Centre though the volleyball event was sparsely attended despite the hosts’ participation.

Clegg said ticket sales were buoyed following the success of the extravagant opening ceremony which featured an appearance from the American six-time Grammy Award Winner Lady Gaga.

“I am pleased to say as a result of the success of the opening ceremony there is significant interest in the city,” he added.

The inaugural European Games runs to June 28 and the closing ceremony was expected to sell out, Clegg said.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)