Inaugural European Games open with spectacular ceremony

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Baku, June 13 (IANS) A spectacular and heart-warming opening ceremony marked the official start to the inaugural European Games here.

Over 65,000 spectators gave an enthusiastic reception for the breath-taking show at the Baku Olympic Stadium on Friday, reports Xinhua.

Ahead of the opening ceremony, the flame for the inaugural European Games made its final journey through Baku.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan attended the opening ceremony along with official delegations of other countries.

Renowned Azerbaijani mugham singer Alim Gasimov opened the ceremony, which was directed by Dimitris Papaioannou, a renowned artist, choreographer, performer and visionary, who received the Golden Cross of the Order of Honour from the Greek President for his outstanding artistic achievement at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Alim Gasimov’s performance was followed by dancers in colourful dresses depicting patterns of traditional Azerbaijani carpets.

The show continued with a colourful theatrical performance showcasing the scenes from the 12-century Azerbaijani poet Nizami’s poetry. The Azerbaijani paralympic blind athlete Ilham Zakiyev carried the torch.

During the Parade of Nations, each participating country, traditionally starting from Greece, marched out onto the floor in alphabetical order to carry their country’s flag and introduce the athletes to the world accompanied by the music of great Azerbaijani composers.

The American music star Lady Gaga performed John Lennon’s “Imagine” song.

The Olympic flag was then brought by prominent Olympic champions from all over the Europe and raised in the stadium. The show continued with a laser show depicting a Greek myth of Europa and the bull.

First Lady of Azerbaijan, President of the country’s Gymnastics Federation Mehriban Aliyeva gave the speech and EOC president Patrick Hickey, before Azeri President Ilham Aliyev declared the Games officially open.

The show then continued with a stunning theatrical performance which highlighted the nature of Baku, a city of winds and fire. The show was followed by grand fireworks.

Azerbaijani folk dance “yally” featuring thousands of performers brought the ceremony to a finale.

Viewers in Baku and across the world were able to enjoy the opening ceremony live on and YouTube at 9 pm Baku time.

An estimated 6,000 athletes, representing 50 European Olympic Committees, will be competing in Baku until June 28 with Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals up for grabs in 20 different sporting disciplines including diving, wrestling, boxing, cycling and gymnastics.

For some of the sports, the European Games act as direct qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, namely shooting and table tennis. For other disciplines — such as taekwondo and archery — the Games offer substantial qualification points on the road to Rio.

Baku was awarded the right to host of the first European Games at the 41st EOC General Assembly in Rome, on December 8, 2012. The European Games will take place every four years thereafter, with the next competition due to be held in 2019.

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