Tatyana Lebedeva: “I will cheer and be excited to see 2024 Olympic Games in Baku”
Vestnik Kavkaza’s guest is Tatyana Lebedeva, a member of the Federation Council Committee for Social Policy, senator of the Volgograd Region, multiple champion of the world and Europe, Olympic athletics champion. She shares her emotions about the First European Games in Baku.
- I know that you have just recently returned from the European Games in Baku. Tell us about your impressions in general and about the competitions per se. Many are currently arguing about the prospects of such format as the European Games. In your opinion, do they have a future?
- Regarding the First European Games, it is certainly an ambitious project. The idea has been occurring for a long time. The problem is that many continents hold so-called Games: the Pan American, Asian Games, Pan African, even Commonwealth Games. In other words, they unite continents or follow some linguistic criterion. Europe is sort of the initiator of all grand events, but there have not been such Games mostly. Everything was implied, the Olympic Games and all, that is it. It was a blessing in disguise. In other words, Azerbaijan, Baku, is actively constructed and poses as an open country, albeit a Muslim one. It is trying to attract as many tourists as possible. Back in 2016 they applied for the Olympics, but they had nothing to boast about, nonetheless, on the contrary, they started building facilities. And already in 2012, the idea of holding the First European Games was born. And Baku took an active role, they were ready, they had practically everything ready for that.
In 2013, they have been given the right so actively, considering that the bid to host the Olympic Games is usually won 7 years ahead, to prepare the infrastructure, in other words, all the facilities were built from scratch. And my impressions that it is fantastic. When I hear the word 'Baku', it is big sports that prevails, not history, culture, because seeing the facilities and holding at the top level. Of course, Carrigan, it is English, I think, Irish, that helped them build the logistics... Not without assistance. But they had great experience. And considering that volunteers took it all up, everything was settled, built, I have no doubts that, since they are bidding for the 2024 Olympics, they will have very big chances of competing with American cities bidding for the right to hold the 2024 Olympic Games. That is why I will do my best to help them, on the one hand. On the other hand, I will cheer and be excited to see Baku become the host of the 2024 Olympic Games.
The European Games themselves were certainly impressive. And, of course, there are certain setbacks, but these are the first Games, I must note. They have not completed all the construction. Many believe that the project will exist and continue such traditions. That is why not all the federations, including the Athletics Organization, could reach a final agreement to hold top-level competitions and gather all the high-level athletes, not just, as it turned out that the third league was present at the team championship of Europe. Before that, there had been a moment when athletics would not be present.
Now, of course, after the event, when everyone saw that such Games have the right to exist, and many federations started thinking, maybe building logistics in July, not in June, in other words, so that all the federations could get licenses for the Olympic Games a year ahead of the Olympics. Then the rating and the status of the Games would go up manyfold. But I think that slow and steady wins the race.
Baku has demonstrated how to do it, how to do it fast. And indeed, it raised the benchmark to the highest level, Negotiations are under way about the next country. It will certainly be very hard to compete, knowing how it was organized before. That is why I would like to wish for the Games to certainly exist, to continue, so that all federations would reach an agreement, be it Olympic or even non-Olympic ones. That is why we understand that, unfortunately, it is very hard for non-Olympic types of sport to enter the Olympics, because everything is expanding so intensively. New types very popular among youth appear. That is why they certainly needs to be attracted, maybe with the help of the European Games as well.
- You said that everything had been built in two years. We all well understand that the construction may be accomplished even faster. And you, as a meritorious athlete, a master of sports, as a professional, perhaps, you have talked with athletes from different delegations. How, in terms of sports infrastructure, do the facilities built in two years meet the high standards?
- First of all, I lived in the Olympic Village, everything starts with the Olympic Village. The way you were accomodated. The conditions there are always, of course, not like in a five-star hotel, but it is always an ascetic lifestyle. The beds, the bathroom, all the basics are there. There is a barber shop, a 24/7 canteen. They even had Azerbaijani cuisine, in other words, if you want something national, it is always open separately.
- You mean there is no need to go anywhere, everything is in hand's reach.
- There were certainly buses, transportation, access to facilities. At the facilities of the top level, of course. Of course, there was additional licensing of the level of the competitions. They met the special commission which represented an organization, a federation, they needed to give approval to a facility to make world records effective, so that everything would meet the technical requirements. And the air conditioners, and the equipment, of course, met the highest requirements. That is why the only thing, maybe, is the athletes... I am talking about logistics, because beach volleyball, I talked with the girls, they needed an hour to get to the other edge of the city. They played in the morning, then the evening. They say: 'We have just arrived, and we need to go again.' In other words, some modern ways were needed so they could stay there, like some tents perhaps, some cabins, where they could, let us say, rest, so as not to lose 2-3 hours on the commute.
- Well, from the point of view of the facilities in Baku, the city is ready to host the Olympic Games.
- Yes. They had a distance of 300 km in the canoe sprint. There was a lake, I cannot remember its name of, but nearby was the River Kura. It is said that it is a very beautiful place, there was a base there in Soviet times. Then it was reconstructed and now it corresponds to the international level. They want to hold such events as the World and European championships. We know that Baku is to host the Islamic Games in 2017. They are also very popular games in the Islamic world, so I think it will be easier for them, as Baku has experience of holding events at such a high level. And the Confederation Cup, taking into account that the centenary of UEFA is to take place in 2017. One of the stages of the games is be held in Baku.
- We all know that the film The Diamond Arm was shot in Baku. I want to remind you of Nonna Mordyukova’s phrase: "Istanbul is a city of contrasts.’’ Istanbul was shot in the Old City of Baku. Does the "Baku is a city of contrasts" definition match today’s city? What do you think?
- Now I say that it is modern, in comparison with the Old City, where nothing can be changed. Here the cultural heritage remained. When you walk alone through the streets, everything is narrow: pavements. If you enter the houses, you will see beautiful painted doors there. It is the eastern exotic. The older the door, the more it is painted. If the door isn’t painted, it means that the family has lived there for more than decades, from generation to generation. Of course, I had such a feeling, but today’s modernity let me know about it. Even those who sold souvenirs there, who were offering persistently. This is the compatibility of the incompatible, the modern and the old at the same time. I don’t even know how to put it into words, but you need to come here and walk through the city. The Old Town is near. At the same time, you see these skyscrapers, which are made of glass and concrete. It is always necessary to raise your head in order to see where the building ends. Certainly, there are such incredible feelings: what the city was and what it has become. That is why a picture is worth a thousand words.