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NEWS FEATURE: European Games could be launched on Saturday

Europe
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Lausanne (dpa) - Panamerican, Asian and African Games are well established, and now the Olympic committees of Europe appear set for a similar sports extravaganza on the old continent.

The European Olympic Committees (EOC) meet on Saturday in Rome to make a final decision on the inauguration of the Games some 20 years after the first ideas were floated.

And if all goes according to plan, Azerbaijan‘s Baku could host the inaugural European Games in May 2015, Olympic sources told dpa.

However, there is resistance as well, especially from the showcase sport of athletics, where the European Athletics Association (EAA) is strictly against participating at European Games.

The 41st EOC general assembly brings together more than 400 delegates and its president Patrick Hickey told dpa at this week‘s International Olympic Committee executive board meetings in Lausanne that he expects an "excellent presentation" from Baku.

The capital of Azerbaijan promises privately funded Games which will serve as a test whether European Games find acceptance in a tight sports calendar.

In this respect the EOC has nothing to lose but IOC president Jacques Rogge remained cautious and didn‘t want to make any predictions.

"I used to preside over the EOC and we conducted a survey 15 years ago whether there was a place for continental Games in Europe. We came to the conclusion, in the mid-1990s, that there isn‘t enough space in the international calendar, especially in Europe with its many championships," Rogge said.

Some sports federations appear to have changed their mind by now amid a consensus that European Games would feature only 15 sports instead of the 28 at Olympics.

But Rogge said that "some are in favour, others not" of continental championships.

The Panamerican Games and Asian Games have each had 16 editions since their inauguration in 1951 and the African championships have had 10 editions since their debut in 1965.

It will depend the influential federations in key sports, and the EAA council has already voted against the presence of its athletes at European Games.

German athletics federation Clemens Prokop said "European Games without athletics would be quite a farce," given the vast success of the showcase sport at the 2012 Olympics in London.

German Olympic Committee general director Michael Vesper said that "our (sports) federations have voiced their scepticism last December (2012)," but said it was legitimate to think about European Games, given that other continents have successful events.

However, Vesper said it was impossible to ignore the fact that key sports such as athletics, football and swimming have "well-working European championships which they market well and which occupy the competition calendar." dpa rai svb bag

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