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Road to Minsk 2019: how is Belarus preparing for the second European Games?

Road to Minsk 2019: how is Belarus preparing for the second European Games?
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The second ever European Games will start on the 21st of June in the city of Minsk, in Belarus. With more than 4000 athletes from 50 different countries it will be a major sporting event in Europe.

But how is the city preparing for the Games?

What's on?

There are more than 20 different sports in the program of the European Games. 9 of these sports will provide Olympic qualifications for Tokyo 2020.

The Games feature many of the classic sports that can be expected at the Olympics like gymnastics, athletics and cycling. But other lesser known sports will be played as well including Sambo, a Soviet-era martial art, and 3x3 basketball.

Another is beach football. Surprisingly enough, Belarus is on of the five strongest countries in Europe in this sport. This was made possible by Spanish coach, Nicolas Caporale, who has headed the national team for Belarus over the last few years.

He said the stakes are high for Belarus:

"We expect a lot from the European games. It is an opportunity that only can happen once in a lifetime. So indeed, the expectations are high. They did a great job to make the Games happen."

He added that it's an inclusive event:

"There is an exceptional atmosphere, it's a very healthy atmosphere, and not only for the athletes but also for families. And I think it's good that everyone can participate in this event."

Visa-free travel to Belarus

Authorities hope that thousands of fans will attend. During this period foreigners will be able to enter Belarus without a visa between June 10th and July 10th.

Nearly 8000 volunteers will be involved in the European Games. They will help at sports venues, the opening ceremony and communicate with foreign delegations and tourists.

One volunteer, Egor, said the Games are an opportunity for him to learn:

"I'm an interpreter. So for me it is very important to practice my language skills. I'm learning English, German and Spanish. There will be a lot of sportsmen from European countries. It's a great chance for me"

Tom Thingvold, from the European Union of Gymnastics, said these games can have complications:

"What is always a challenge for us is transportation and accommodation which is totally out of our control."

But he was confident that Belarus can pull it off - "I feel they are so ready they could host the Games tomorrow."