Romania Chef de Mission Alexandru Epuran ©COSR

Alexandru Epuran
Chef de Mission, Romania

1)    Why has it taken so long for Europe to stage its first continental Games?
Well I think Europeans, being the ones that invented sport actually a long time ago of course, are very busy. So a continental competition was not really feasible until it was integrated into some of the Olympic Movement. I think this is behind not having it for so long, but now it’s a necessity. I think it’s a necessity for the European sports to have this competition.

2)    What makes Baku the perfect host city to stage the inaugural European Games?
Well I think sports today are facing new trends and important changes geographically also and I think this area of Europe, which is becoming very active and very prolific in sports performance, quite naturally appear in this modern sports environment. I think again, it’s a necessity. It comes from the becoming of human society or the European sports society, if you want.

3)    How big do you think your team for Baku 2015 will be and how many sports will you be represented in?
Well we’re going to be in almost every sport and we’re hoping to bring around 170 athletes. And the delegation overall will be around 210 to 220 people.

Romania will be bringing around 170 athletes to Baku for the European Games
Romania will be bringing around 170 athletes to Baku for the European Games ©Getty Images

4)    How important is it for the success and appeal of the European Games that some sports afford athletes the opportunity to qualify for Olympic Games?
Yeah this is an important issue. We emphasise that in our contracts with the National Federations. Everybody wants to win and getting tickets to Rio [2016] here is obviously very important. But also you have a very important multi-sport competition one year ahead of the Games, which makes it a very, very valuable competition, occasion or opportunity to evaluate your sports performance and you can make some fine tuning before the Olympics. It gives you enough time to even change or alter the programmes that you already considered for the Olympics. It is important really.

5)    What is the significance of the Games for the European Olympic Movement and how confident are you that they will become sport’s flagship event on the continent?
I think it’s a trend and, as I told you a little earlier, it’s something which appears out of necessity so if this need for the competition is real, and I think it is real, because the geography of the European sports is changing, I think it is important and it will be more important when people realise how important this really is. And yeah I’m positively sure it’s going to be very interesting and everybody will grab necessary attention to it. I compare it to the Youth [Olympic] Games. They just appeared from nowhere and they’re very, very important now for all our young athletes. Everybody dreams to get there because it is a step between the European [Youth Olympic] Festival and the Olympic Games, and you have this step that was missing until now and now you have the European Games. And this is a new step towards European [athletes] becoming Olympians. First you go to the [European Youth] Olympic Festival, then you go to the Youth [Olympic] Games and if you have this opportunity before the big Games, [in the form of] the European Games, this is fabulous. It’s very important for any young athlete.

6)    How impressed have you been by the facilities to be used for the European Games and the work of the Baku 2015 Organising Committee in ensuring their delivery and readiness?
Well I’ve been there only once and we had a short visit and we were given an idea about what’s going on there and it has the air of let’s say an Olympic Games. They did their best obviously but I think they did more than we expected as European countries. It’s great work and the people involved in doing this, in preparing the European Games, are clearly very professional and they know what they’re doing and we co-operated very well, but for the Games I’m not expecting less than top quality and everything will be just fine.

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Alexandru Epuran says Baku's organisation of the European Games has exceeded expectations ©Getty Images

7)    Are there any sports not represented that you would like to see in the European Games?
Well I can’t say that because we have some non-Olympic sports there that maybe [wouldn't feature] if they weren't so modern or so young. So I think that the programme is quite interesting, even from a spectator’s point of view, because together with traditional Olympic sports you have some non-Olympic sports and also you have one sport with disabled athletes and I think this is great. This is what universality is all about even if we are just looking at a continent. But I think these changes that are present in the Youth [Olympic] Games also, are the future of the Olympics. Obviously the Olympics are a very traditional and a long-established institution but even there you can see the wind of change. And I think this is the future having a couple of sports every edition changing between themselves based on the popularity of people demand or the spectators and the TV audience demand. It’s very good for the sports and for the Olympic Movement I think.

8)    How symbolic is it that the first ever European Games will take place in a country that has experienced a major re-birth of its own since gaining independence in 1991?
Well I think it shows that sport is changing and it’s going into a new, interesting, original and good direction. But somehow, well maybe God wanted sports to go and cover all of Europe and make Europe a very close together continent. I’m really very enthusiastic about this and I think the organisers also have a merit in this role and the European Olympic Committees because it was a hard decision. It’s not an easy one to vouch a continental competition and I think the [Azerbaijan] Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee, the European Olympic Committees and the organisers did something fantastic.

9)    How interested do you think the public in your country will be in the Games?
Well the public in Romania has a lot of issues, a lot of problems in the social and political life here but sport is not unimportant. They seem together with the athletes and they’re close to the athletes, and they do love a good sports story and I think this story is great. Now we’re making efforts and we have all the backup we need from the European Olympic Committees and from the organisers in Baku to have to take steps towards publicising the event and arguably all the athletes that are considering coming there are adjusting their schedules. So everybody is in some way or another involved into this and this has some echo in the media. They’ve been close to us again and they will follow it. I’m certain about that.

10)    What are you looking forward to most at Baku 2015?
Well I’m looking for a new version of the Olympics really but this is very personal - it’s not official or anything because obviously it’s not the Olympics, it’s the European Games. But I think we’re looking to the way that the Olympics are going to look like in about four or five Olympic cycles.

Interview by Daniel Etchells