Fifteen sports, four thousand athletes from 50 countries, thousand coaches and tens of thousands of fans – in June Minsk, the capital of Belarus, is preparing to host the II European games. Creating conditions for new sports records is an important, but not the only task set by the organizers of the competition: they pay special attention to ensuring, that the Games meet the Sustainable development goals.
The Secretary-General of the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus, Georgy Katulin told the UN-News Service about this. During the presentation of the Games at the UN-headquarters in New York, Anton Uspensky talked to him.
AU: Could you tell us about the initiative of these games? How did Belarus become a hosting country of this event? And what are your goals as an organizer?
GK: When the next host of the II European games was nominated, the application of Nietherlands won. But after a certain time they could not provide the budget for the Games and one year late refused to host the event. The EOC (European Olympic committees) faced a choice of what to do with a project that had just been successfully born in Baku. Knowing the sports infrastructure of the Republic of Belarus, the management of the EOC appealed to the President of the National Olympic Committee to support the project and host it. We began to prepare the European Games.
Indeed, the project is huge, such a grandiose event has never taken a place in Belarus before. Minsk was one of the cities hosting the Olympic games in 1980, when a football tournament was held in Minsk, but, as you know, this event is of a completely different scale. Several sports, and more specifically - nine, are qualifying for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo. Our task is to provide sports conditions corresponding to the highest level, so that athletes from all over Europe, and we know for sure that 50 European sports committees will take part in the Games, will be able to show the best results.
From the organizational point of view, probably the best message was from the President of the National Olympic Committee, Alexander Lukashenko, when he said: "Of course, we do not have such financial resources as Azerbaijan, but we will go with something else – sincerity, hospitality and organization." This is the task we are carrying out.
AU: You've mentioned the Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo in 2020. The UN actively participates in the process of organizing these Games in order to popularize the goals that are close to both the Olympic movement and The United Nations. In the context of your work and preparation, have you considered any UN aspects?
GK: We have signed two cooperation agreements. The first was with the UNICEF, and we are implementing a programme to train volunteers and to integrate children with physical disabilities into sports and social life. The second project is an agreement with the UNAIDS. As any major international competition is a confluence of many young people and fans, we will take this opportunity to promote UNAIDS initiatives to protect and prevent the spread of AIDS. Plus, this cooperation has a material side – UNAIDS Agency provides us with sponsorship, through which we will acquire medical equipment necessary for the treatment and prevention of injuries during the competition.
Our Games will be a step in the implementation of the ideas of sustainable development of society and countries as a whole – without additional financial costs. No object is being built specifically for Games, they all have been existing before.
We also have a program for greening the city and creating appropriate environmental conditions. For the last few years, we have been creating conditions for theresidents to actively use bicycles. Several unique bicycle paths have been created, one of them is 28 kilometers long from North to South across the city.
AU: So, we can say that the entire infrastructure is ready, and you are ready to welcome guests. And what about the visa facilities and the arrival in Belarus?
GK: We have taken an unprecedented step to simplify the visa regime – now we have a visa-free regime with 74 countries. Moreover, in relation to the fans, who will attend the Games, the ticket is an official document for the entry into the country along with a valid passport. The government is now making a decision on visa-free stay in the country for 10 days without registration. We hope that these steps will really open Belarus for European tourists, and, of course, for the whole world.