Chef de Mission, Sweden
1) Why has it taken so long for Europe to stage its first continental Games?
I think that traditionally there's been a perfect tour with [individual] European Championships and that has worked quite well so I think that’s why.
2) What makes Baku the perfect host city to stage the inaugural European Games?
Baku and Azerbaijan want to show and prove themselves on the international scene. So I think an international sport event is a very good way of doing that. I don’t think Baku is the perfect place for a sporting event like this but it’s going to be technically very good.
3) How big do you think your team for Baku 2015 will be and how many sports will you be represented in?
I think we could be in 17 sports with about 75 to 85 athletes.
4) How important is it for the success and appeal of the European Games that some sports afford athletes the opportunity to qualify for Olympic Games?
The qualification for the Olympics for those sports in the European Games are more important of course, but the European Games does not play that big a role in the qualification. It’s for quota places, so it’s just some points on the rankings, in some sports more and in some sports less, but generally for our sports, if there is quotas for Olympic qualification, it’s an important competition. For the other sports, it's not so important but maybe you're [the athletes] getting used to seeing what a multi-sport event looks like and of course it’s a good experience for young athletes that have not been to an Olympic Games before to be exposed to an [Athletes'] Village and be exposed to being together with [the athletes of] other sports during competition time.
5) What is the significance of the Games for the European Olympic Movement and how confident are you that they will become sport’s flagship event on the continent?
I think if the first Games come out good this could be a legacy for the future, but there has to be a lot of development of the format. I think there should be no juniors on this European Games and there should be almost only Olympic events. It’s not like that now and in some sports there are not the best athletes and you have to change that. One more thing is that you need to find the balance between the European Federations and the EOC [European Olympic Committees] when it comes to European Championships's timing. Wrestling is the only European Championships here [at Baku 2015] and that’s a bit odd that only one sport has its European Championships. So it’s not a good balance. Balance between events. Olympic and non-Olympic balance between the best athletes in some sports, and some sports not, and balance about juniors and seniors, so it’s very difficult to deal with these aspects.
6) How impressed have you been by the facilities to be used for the European Games and the work of the Baku 2015 Organising Committee in ensuring their delivery and readiness?
I think the venues will be good. They’re up to the standard you need for a good European Championships.
7) Are there any sports not represented that you would like to see in the European Games?
As I said, I want to see more Olympic events and less non-Olympic events, and I want to see a bigger portion of the qualification system for the coming Summer [Olympic] Games will take place in the next European Games [in 2019].
8) How symbolic is it that the first ever European Games will take place in a country that has experienced a major re-birth of its own since gaining independence in 1991?
I cannot say it’s symbolic at all. For me, as I said, I have the impression that this country wants to show and prove itself on the international scene and to go for an international sport event is probably a good thing. But there is a lot of work [to do] within the country, with human rights, and the freedom of press. I hope that this country can develop economically but also when it comes to human rights and freedom of press.
9) How interested do you think the public in your country will be in the Games?
It’s a very small interest. There is right now no TV company that is planned to be sent [to Baku]. There is very few journalists visiting and of course there will be an interest for the European Wrestling Championships because wrestling is an important sport in our country, so I think there is more interest for two or three sports, mainly in wrestling, than there is for the event itself.
10) What are you looking forward to most at Baku 2015?
Well we’re going to have some athletes competing in the European Games on the Road to Rio and I personally look forward that they can achieve good results.
Interview by Daniel Etchells