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European Games in Azerbaijan

European Games in Azerbaijan

The countdown to Europe’s first continental multi-sport Games is officially over after the Opening Ceremony of Baku 2015, which saw a sold-out Olympic Stadium in the Azerbaijan’s capital city treated to spectacular performances, including from international music star Lady Gaga.

The Ceremony was held in front of a 68,000 crowd with several dignitaries in attendance, including International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and European Olympic Committees (EOC) President Patrick Hickey, in addition to Azerbaijan’s President Ilyam Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Hickey played the  key role in the establishment of the European Games, which will be held until June 28 and spoke of adding the “missing fifth ring” to the Continental Games of the world, prior to the official announcement Aliyev officially announcing the Games open.

Created by Greek artistic director Dimitris Papaioannou the Ceremony began with a focus on the Azerbaijan’s history and culture, featuring national literature, symbols and festivals.

A countdown from 24 to zero, to the beat of 50 drummers, opened the two-hour spectacle, marking 24-years since the restoration of the country’s independence.

They were accompanied by around 1,000 dancers in patterned skirts to celebrate the country’s famous carpets with a colourful display prior to the host nation’s flag being raised and national anthem played.

In a section titled “The First Flame” the European Games torch was brought into the stadium by double Paralmypic judoka gold medallist Ilham Zakiyev having completed a journey of nearly 5,500 kilometres, after being carried by 1,000 Torchbearers, after being captured from the earth at Baku’s sacred fire temple Ateshgah.

With Azerbaijan’s heritage a constant theme of the opening half of the Ceremony one of the country’s best-known acts of literature featuring lovers Leyli and Majnun by performers, featuring historic poet Nizami, before a giant pomegranate, a national symbol, descended in the centre of the stadium before bursting open as a token of abundance, rebirth, love and good luck.

A differing image was projected during the conclusion of the Parade of Nations as the headline act of the Ceremony, American music star Lady Gaga, sang John Lennon’s song “Imagine” which has a central message of imagining a world at peace and without borders.

Similarly acts focused on international unity, displayed by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and a focus on Europe’s shared history in a segment on the mythical princess Europa sought to continue this theme.

The Baku 2015 flame was lit amid a focus on Novruz, one of the most important festivals in Azerbaijanm which celebrates the wind, water, earth and fire, before the Ceremony concluded with a spectacular fireworks display while all the 2,000 performers engaged in national dance Yalli.

America's six-time Grammy Award winner Lady Gaga was the headline act of the Opening Ceremony


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