'European Olympics' coddling dictators before it even has sports

I missed this last month, but apparently Europe is getting its own continent-level Olympic-style tournament, and the first event will be held in 2015 in … Baku:

"We are the only continent without senior Games. We do not have an event like the Asian Games or the Pan American or African Games," said [European Olympic Committee President Patrick] Hickey, who also heads the Irish Olympic Committee.

The first edition of the four-yearly event will be staged by cash-rich Baku which had unsuccessfully bid for the summer Olympics of 2016 and 2020.

"Baku and Azerbaijan are not strapped like the rest of Europe. We wanted to get this off the ground and this event will be at no expense to the national Olympic committees," said Hickey.

It's understandable that energy-rich Azerbaijan would be more enthusiastic about building stadiums than crisis-ridden Western European governments, but it's unfortunate that the first Olympic-style athletic event for an overwhelmingly democratic region is being held in one of its very few authoritarian countries. (In a related story, an Eastern European think tank just named President Ilham Aliyev "corruption's man of the year.")

Aliyev will surely look to exploit the games as a PR opportunity, as he did with last year's controversial Eurovision Song Contest, though as Eurasianet reports, opposition groups are also looking to take advantage of the international attention.

The bigger problem for the organizers may be that not all the major sports federations have signed on to the event yet -- athletics, swimming, and basketball. It's hard to imagine an Olympics-style event without running, swimming, and hoops, but maybe they'll have the kinks worked out by Minsk 2019. 

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