Armenia’s Olympic Committee President will not attend Friday’s opening ceremony at the inaugural European Games, nor will he travel to Azerbaijan for the 16-day event as relations between the neighbours remain tense, according to Reuters.
The two countries are at odds over Nagorno-Karabakh and as recently as April several soldiers from both sides were killed and more injured.
“The President of the National Olympic Committee of Armenia was never attending,” European Olympic Committees President Patrick Hickey told reporters. “He told us that from day one.”
Hickey tried to play down Gagik Tsarukyan’s absence, saying the businessman was otherwise occupied.
“He seldom attends many events. He prefers to operate within his own country. He has a lot to do as he is a successful businessman.”
The Armenian team, which will march into the stadium at the opening ceremony later on Friday to what is widely expected to be a frosty reception, has sent 25 athletes to the June 12-28 event, competing mainly in wrestling and boxing.
“We know there is a conflict,” Hickey said. “But we are so happy this is happening here with Armenia participating.”
“I want to praise authorities of Armenia for coming and Azerbaijan for making them feel welcome,” Hickey said.