European Athletics commits to Minsk 2019 with ‘innovative event’

The European Athletics governing body has confirmed that it will be part of the 2019 European Games multi-sport championships in Minsk through the introduction of an “innovative event”.

The inaugural European Games was held in Baku, Azerbaijan last year with athletics playing a relatively minor role through the inclusion of the European Athletics Team Championships Third League competition.

A statement released through the Twitter accounts of European Athletics and the European Olympic Committees (EOC) today (Thursday) read: “European Athletics has agreed to be part of 2019 European Games in Minsk with innovative event. EA Council next April will confirm details.”

The EOC in October chose Minsk as the new host of the second edition of its multi-sport event. The appointment of the Belarussian capital ended a period of uncertainty for the EOC after Baku hosted the 2015 Games. The 2019 European Games were originally scheduled to take place in the Netherlands, but the country pulled out last year due to financial concerns. Russia was then earmarked to take over the hosting rights, but reportedly declined the opportunity to host.

The 2015 European Games featured 20 sports, with Azerbaijan thought to have invested at least $1.2bn (€1.12bn) in preparing for the event. Belarus is currently in recession and Sport and Tourism Minister Alexander Shamko said in October that it is planning to spend around $40m on the 2019 Games by utilising existing venues and infrastructure. The Games programme is also set to be pared back to between 12 and 15 sports.

Athletics’ role in the European Games has been questioned with European Athletics a key stakeholder in the new European Championships multi-sport event, which is set to debut in Berlin and Glasgow in 2018.

However, coming in 2019, a year before the Tokyo Olympics, Minsk’s European Games are in a better position to offer qualifying points for the Olympics and thereby attract a higher calibre of athlete.