European Games open in Belarus

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              Children in national Belarusian costumes carry a state flag during the opening ceremony of the Second European Games in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, June 21, 2019. The event will run from June 21 to June 30. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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MINSK, Belarus (AP) — The second edition of the European Games has opened in the Belarusian capital Minsk.

Belarus’ longtime president, Alexander Lukashenko, declared the games open before a “flame of peace” was lit and fireworks were launched from the roof of the Dinamo stadium.

The ceremony had a strong historical flavor, including folk dancing and a tribute to the Belarus-born artist Marc Chagall. That was a contrast to the lavish and often abstract European Games opening in 2015 in Azerbaijan, which starred singer Lady Gaga.

The European Games have struggled to carve out their identity in a crowded sports schedule, as various sports jealously guard their own European championships.

The games run through June 30 and feature 3,667 athletes from 50 countries.