EOC puts 2019 European Games plans on hold, stresses commitment to Russia

The European Olympic Committees (EOC) has confirmed that Russia is its preferred destination for the 2019 European Games but must complete the reform of its anti-doping activities if it is to stage the second edition of the multi-sport event.

An official announcement on the host for the 2019 Games was due to be made at the EOC’s general assembly meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, today (Friday), but has been delayed due to the scandal surrounding Russian athletics.

The Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has imposed an indefinite ban on the Russian Athletics Federation (Araf) after the country was accused by an independent World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) commission of operating a state-sponsored doping programme. The IAAF has said that the suspension will only be lifted when its inspection team has been persuaded that the necessary reforms have been made.

Shortly before the inaugural edition of the European Games got under way in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku in June, the Netherlands pulled out of a proposed nationwide hosting of the 2019 event after the Dutch government refused to support it amid concerns over the potential financial outlay required.

Addressing the general assembly today, EOC president Patrick Hickey said: “The EOC held discussions with several nations, and I thank them all for their interest. As you know, we developed an excellent understanding with the Netherlands Olympic Committee in particular – it was just not to be on this occasion.

“But ultimately, our preferred host nation was Russia and we hoped to present their concept to you all here in Prague. But for obvious reasons, the priority for Russia, for the Russian Olympic Committee, and – by extension – the EOC, must be elsewhere.”

Hickey maintained that the punishments imposed on Russia should enable it to come back stronger with a leading anti-doping system. He said: “Russia is still the EOC's preferred partner for hosting the 2019 European Games. That is provided the independent authorities can confirm Russia's ability to support an anti-doping programme that meets the highest international standards.

“The Games are four years away and there is real potential here to demonstrate Russia's new, robust anti-doping system and clean-sport culture through the 2019 European Games. I believe Russia can lead from the front in the future.

“Baku 2015 proved that the European Games is already an attractive property with massive potential: 6,000 participants competing in 20 sports, watched by 1.7 billion around the world.

And the appeal of the Games will only improve second time around – particularly as the EOC is working with European Athletics to develop an innovative, world-class track and field format for the sports programme in 2019.”