The European Games was initially envisioned to be a prestigious multi-sport event in the Olympic tradition that featured athletes from European nations. However, the few decisions taken since its inception made it a controversial entity and a sports diplomacy tool for the region’s oppressive leaders.
The tournament’s latest controversy emerged after Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that Minsk would host the second edition of the event in 2019. According to insidethegames, Lukashenko secured the deal following a meeting with Janez Kocijančič, the acting President of the European Olympic Committees (EOC), who replaced Ireland’s Pat Hickey following his arrest at at Rio 2016.
The European Olympic Committee (EOC) was not in agreement over the decision to host the event in Belarus. Norway and Denmark voted against Minsk while five other nations abstained from the vote. However, the EOC was pressured to select a city after The Netherlands and Russia withdrew their candidacy.
Lukashenko, labeled the “last dictator in Europe,” garnered negative press from Western media for his “Soviet nostalgia” in domestic policy such as continued state ownership of essential industries. Implausible statements such as his praise for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany and the infamous “better to be a dictator than gay” also garnered bad publicity for the strongman.
The Belarusian president is also questioned for his human rights abuses and censorship concerns in media.
“I want our European organization to be as good as the organizations of other continents, including the International Olympic Committee,” Lukashenko said at the 45th EOC General Assembly (h/t insidethegames). “In this regard I am a nationalist and a patriot.
“Therefore, you can count on Belarus.”