By Mike Rowbottom in Baku

Preparations for Baku 2015 are continuing well with the successful mountain bike test event ©Baku 2015The European Games, the inaugural hosting of which is due to take place here between June 12 and 28 next year, could find future hosts from cities which have been unsuccessful in bidding for the Olympics, according to Pierce O'Callaghan, the Baku 2015 director of sport.

Baku, which bid unsuccessfully for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games, has been able to utilise much of its infrastructure and preparation for the new challenge of the first European Games, with facilities such as the National Gymnastics Arena and the Crystal Hall already up and running.

O'Callaghan, who oversaw the first dedicated Baku 2015 test event, the mountain biking, here yesterday, suggested that future versions of the European Games - with the next one due in 2019 - might be hosted by nations which, like Azerbaijan, had failed to secure the Olympics.

"You look at cities such as Madrid, Istanbul, dare I say it even Paris, who haven't been able to secure the Olympics but may still have a strong desire to stage a multi-event championship," O'Callaghan said.

"As things stand, the United States appear to have a very good chance of securing the Olympics in 2024, so you have to ask when the Games will next be in Europe?

"I believe the European Games will rise and thrive on the back of those circumstances."

Hosting future European Games could appeal to cities, like Paris, who have bid unsuccessfully for the Olympics, Baku 2015 director of sport Pierce O'Callaghan claims ©Getty ImagesHosting future European Games could appeal to cities, like Paris, who have bid unsuccessfully for the Olympics, Baku 2015 director of sport Pierce O'Callaghan claims ©Getty Images

O'Callaghan, and the Baku 2015 chief operating officer Simon Clegg, stressed how vital it was to the viability of the first European Games - which will now involve 20 sports, including 16 Olympic sports - that international federations were happy to value the event as either a direct or indirect qualifier for the Rio 2016 Games.

"The key question we had to ask was: How can we assure the best athletes of Europe come to these Games?" O'Callaghan said.

"NOCs (National Olympic Committees) can't make athletes compete.

"So how do guarantee?

"We didn't want to go down the route of prize money.

"We felt there was a huge value in competing at the first European Games, and having the chance to become the first ever champion.

"But to have 11 sports offering either direct or indirect qualification for the Rio Olympics is huge for us."

Boxing and wrestling were the two most recent sports to announce qualification opportunities, which they did on October 10.

The 11 sports now offering Rio 2016 qualification opportunities are archery, athletics, boxing, cycling, shooting, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon, wrestling and volleyball.

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