The FINANCIAL -- A six-day summer European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) kicked off with an opening ceremony at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi on Sunday evening, marking the launch of the largest sporting event ever hosted by Georgia.
Tbilisi won the bid to host the biennial games for 14-18-year-old athletes in 2010, beating out the Czech city of Brno.
Over 3,200 athletes from 50 countries are competing in nine sports, including artistic gymnastics; athletics; basketball; cycling; handball; judo; swimming; tennis, and volleyball.
Competitions will be held at ten venues. Five of them – swimming pool, gymnastics, volleyball and athletics arenas, as well as tennis courts – are newly built facilities, and others have been reconstructed, according to Civil.ge
About GEL 65 million has been spent on this infrastructure, according to the chairman of EYOF Tbilisi 2015 organizing committee Alexi Akhvlediani.
In total GEL 79 million was spent to prepare and organize the event since 2012, according to the Tbilisi City Hall.
Athletes’ Village, which includes nine apartment buildings, accommodating more than 3,400 athletes and team officials, is located at Tbilisi Sea, an artificial reservoir, in the suburb of the capital city. The area is part of a larger residential complex, which is being developed by a private Chinese company Hualing. At the opening ceremony of the Athlete’s Village on July 20, PM Irakli Garibashvili said that after the EYOF Tbilisi 2015 is over, the government will purchase eight apartment buildings from the investor and hand them over to the internally displaced persons.
“I am extremely happy about what I have seen, they have done an absolutely wonderful job and the venues are in great shape,” President of the European Olympic Committees, Patrick Hickey, said on July 26 after touring most of the venues.
During the fireworks at the opening ceremony a small portion of empty section of the stadium briefly caught fire but it was quickly extinguished. In another mishap, the Olympic flag was raised upside down.
Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili, who attended the ceremony together with wife and two sons, formally declared the games opened during the ceremony.
Other senior Georgian officials were also present at the opening ceremony, but one notable absentee was President Giorgi Margvelashvili.
President Margvelashvili congratulated opening of the games and wished success to the athletes through a Facebook post, which was followed by dozens of comments from Georgian Facebook users, many of them asking why the President was absent at the ceremony. PM Garibashvili, who is often at odds with the President on various issues, criticized Margvelashvili most recently on July 24 for his decision to pardon a former local official in Khoni, who is brother of opposition UNM lawmaker and who was serving a 3.5-year prison term for embezzlement, which he was denying as politically motivated.
Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan and President of Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR Rovnag Abdullayev were among the foreign guests, attending the opening ceremony.