Olympics

Inaugural European Games approved for Baku in 2015

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ROME (AP)

The inaugural European Games were approved Saturday by continental Olympic committees and assigned to Baku in June 2015.

The secret ballot of European Olympic Committees ends years of debate, passing with 38 in favor, eight against and three abstaining. The capital of Azerbaijan was the sole candidate.

The results were met with applause from the floor of 49 delegations at the two-day EOC general assembly.

Other continents already have regional competitions, such as the Asian Games and Pan American Games. The biggest obstacle to a European Games had been the fact that two major sports - athletics and swimming - already have established continental competitions.

It remains unclear if athletics and swimming will participate in 2015.

Dates have not been fixed yet, but as many as 7,000 athletes are expected to participate. The event will include 15 of the 28 summer Olympic sports, plus two non-Olympic sports, which haven't been selected yet.

Sports that could be confirmed include: archery, badminton, boxing, canoeing, fencing, handball, judo, rugby sevens, shooting, taekwondo, table tennis, triathlon and volleyball.

Negotiations are also under way with the European Union of Gymnastics.

The games will be held every four years.

The idea for a European Games had been under consideration for years, but this was the first time the EOC voted. The already crowded sports calendar had been among the main concerns.

''These first games will be very much a trial and test run for a huge event in 2019,'' EOC President Patrick Hickey told The Associated Press on Friday. ''My idea is that this would become a qualifier for the Olympic Games in 2020 for certain sports. We have to negotiate with certain federations.''

Athletics and swimming world championships have already been scheduled for 2015. The athletics event will be held in Beijing in August, while the swimming competition is slated for Kazan, Russia, in July.

In a statement, European Athletics ruled out any involvement for 2015, although the governing body left the door open for possible participation after that.

''2015 is for us not possible as we already have contractual obligations to honor,'' it said. ''Nowadays, though, the future is requesting a strong coordination between sports bodies and other parties such as television, for example, in order to be successful. If this coordination can be achieved, then European Athletics is open to looking to such solutions.''

Athletics and swimming European championships will be held in 2014.

''We're open to looking at our options and we don't want to say `No' before the fact, but the calendar is already packed and 2015 is around the corner,'' European swimming federation (LEN) President Paolo Barelli told The Associated Press.

Baku submitted a bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics but was eliminated when the IOC selected a shortlist of three finalists in May.

Armenia asked not to vote, as it remains in a conflict with Azerbaijan over the mountainous territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

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