Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus, Sergei Aleinik, discusses this major sporting event taking place in his country this June
FOUR YEARS AFTERthe successful inauguration of the first European Games in Baku in 2015, Belaruspicks up the baton. From 21 to 30 June the Second European Games will take place in Minsk. Over 4,000 athletes will participate in a diverse range of 15 different sports; and with Olympic qualification up for grabs in eight of the disciplines, Minsk 2019 represents a major step on the path to Tokyo 2020. Of the approximately 50 participating countries, the UKis expected to send one of the largest teams.
Belarus has already held the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2018, as well as the World Ice Hockey Championship in 2014. The European Games 2019 will be included in this magnificent line up, and will add another paragraph to the modern history of Belarus.
The European Games is a vast and logistically challenging event, and we encourage you to come to Minsk to see everything with your own eyes. For long Europe’s best-kept secret, visitors are now coming to Belarus in significant numbers following bold moves to substantially relax the visa regime for incoming travellers from abroad.
There has never been a better time to walk through the door to discover the country’s riches, and with the opening of the Games in the newly refurbished Dinamo Stadium – now one of Europe’s best-appointed sports stadia – the country is set to welcome athletes, sports fans and tourists from all over the continent.
Everything that participants, officials, support teams, journalists and sports fans might need can be found within the city of Minsk. Athletes and officials will be accommodated in newly-upgraded university halls of residence, which will provide a lasting Games legacy for students and local people.
Access to facilities will be quick and simple thanks to the superb infrastructure of roads and public transport, which is green, comprehensive, cheap and easy to use. Spectators will be delivered to the Games locations by around 80 electric buses, produced in Belarus. Minsk National Airport has been fully upgraded and access to the city centre is easy and trouble-free.
17,000 volunteers from all over Europe applied to play their part in making this a spectacular event, and now 8,000 Games volunteers have been selected and fully trained to be on hand with comprehensive information and a ready smile to assist athletes, spectators and journalists with their every need. Even the outfits the volunteers will wear have been specially created by Belarusian stylist Yulia Latushkina.
Belarusian specialists have been exclusively involved in creating a network through which the whole system of the Games will be managed (from software to design of the mobile application and the official website).
Outside the Games venues, Minsk has a myriad of attractions for the visitor. Almost completely destroyed by the Nazis in World War II (known here as ‘the Great Patriotic War’), the city rose from the flames of destruction with an ambitious programme of urban planning on the largest of scales. Today, huge boulevards, vast areas of parkland and open space, fascinating architecture (from classical to brutalist), and wide-open skies with expansive views await the eye of inquisitive visitors. Splendid theatres, museums and galleries are to be found around every corner. The streets are tidy and crime-free, and visitors are known to walk them at all hours of the day and night.
For visitors with time on their hands to explore beyond Minsk, a whole new world awaits, where ancient and modern history meet. Old villages, museum towns, palaces, monuments and beautiful cities – each with their own character and individual charms – meet unspoilt nature in national parks with vast tracts of primeval forest, lakes and marshland with a huge diversity of wildlife. All this is waiting to be discovered.
It is interesting to note that the opening weekend of the Games coincides with the GREAT British Festival 2019. Organised by the British Embassy and taking place on Sunday 23 June on and around Freedom Square, the Festival will celebrate British culture and trade, and will seek to showcase the best of British in a range of fields and promote Anglo-Belarusian mutual cooperation and liaisons. Last year’s festival attracted around 100,000 visitors and with so much happening in Minsk this year around the European Games, this year’s event will surely build on last year’s success.
However, sports events of this magnitude, like the European Games 2019, are not only held to find the best of the best and praise the achievements of a particular country. If we delve into the history of the global version of this event — the Olympic Games — we can observe that there was a temporary truce in Greeceduring the war to hold competitions. With this in mind, it’s now more important than ever to be united and to maintain peace between nations at this turbulent time.