The first week in Baku for the inaugural European Games saw a little bit of everything – from controversy and tragedy leading into the games, to the celebration of the opening ceremonies, to the sporting triumphs of athletes from across Europe – the Azerbaijani capital has put on quite a show.
The days before the festivities began were anything but ideal for the host committee, as the Azerbaijani government was criticised for their decisions to kick out the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and ban representatives from Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the international human rights group Amnesty International from visiting the country during the Games (see our “Things that make you go hmmm” article for a more in-depth look at the decisions).
Tragedy also struck the festivities just hours before the events kicked off when three, 15-year-old, Austrian synchronised swimmers were run down by a European Games shuttle bus in the comfort and safety of the Athletes Village. Two sustained serious injuries and one, at the time of writing, remains in a medically-induced coma with serious spinal injuries that could lead to paralysis.
However, as the organising committee said, “The show must go on” – and so it did. The opening ceremonies was a celebration of Azerbaijani culture that attempted to introduce the relatively new country to the rest of Europe. Featuring a magical flying carpet, the peculiar melodies of mugham singing, and an enormous, exploding pomegranate, it was an engaging event – even if its attempt to portray Azerbaijan as European fell flat.
With the pageantry of the ceremonies over with, the focus turned to the over 6,000 European athletes gathered in the city and, more importantly, their sporting achievements. Hungarian athletes got off to a roaring start, with 13 medals, including seven gold.
The water polo teams also had a successful start, with the men winning all of their matches and the women winning four out of five – including a rousing 4th-quarter comeback from four goals down to Greece.
While week one saw Hungary off to a great start to the First European Games, week two is shaping up to be super. The Hungarian men’s and women’s water polo teams hope to be playing for gold, while Olympic silver medalist Miklos Ungvari and Olympic bronze medalist Eva Csernoviczki are both in action as the judo tournament begins. Here’s what you need to know for week two.
Saturday, June 20th: All eyes will be on
Water Polo Arena as the women’s tournament draws to a close with the gold medal match at 16:30. Hungary looked good in the preliminary round, so let’s hope the ladies can make it all the way.
Sunday, June 21st: Tune in at 16:30 to see if the Hungarian men can match the ladies by taking gold in the men’s water polo tournament.
Monday, June 22nd: The boxing tournament gets started and will see seven different Hungarian boxers compete, including four national champions. Be sure to check out Istvan Ungvari, who took bronze at the
European Championships, in the light flyweight quarterfinals at 10:30.
Tuesday, June 23rd: Fencing is on display and the Hungarians will see a full complement of entries in both the men’s and women’s events. Bouts begin at 9:00 and run all day until 20:00.
Wednesday, June 24th: Beach Soccer is a non-Olympic event that is rapidly gaining popularity all around the world. The Hungarian side has been drawn into a division with Italy, Russia and Spain. The boys will take on Russia at 16:00.
Thursday, June 25th: Two-time reigning
European Champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Eva Csernoviczki aims to secure the first ever gold in Judo in the 48 kg class. She begins her pursuit at 9:00.