In the brand new and very impressive Olympic Stadium of Baku, on the evening of June 12, 2015, the Games opened with a parade of the teams of the 50 countries of Europe taking part in the Games, with Greece, being the origin of the Olympic Games, leading the parade in a very touching moment. Flag bearer for the Greek team was Eleftherios Petrounias, World Champion of gymnastics, while the flag of the European Olympic Committee was held by eight Olympic medallists.
The opening ceremony was officiated by HE the President of Azerbaijan, Mr Ilham Aliyev, and the opening speech was made by the Chairperson of the Organising Committee of the Games, the First Lady of Azerbaijan and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva.
The spectacular ceremony was watched from inside the Stadium by the President of Russia Vladimir Putin , the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Serbia Tomislav Nikolic, the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, the President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic, HRH Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, the Prime Minister of Romania Victor Ponta, the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov, HRH Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Mosaad Abdulaziz, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, the President of the European Olympic Committees Patrick Hickey, the President of the Association of National Olympic Committees, Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, the Director General of ISESCO Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, and many other high ranking politicians and sporting officials of countries like San-Marino, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Iran, Ukraine, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and others.
A personal guest of Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Lady of Azerbaijan, was Ms. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, as the two ladies, both being UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors, have been working closely for the past 10 years and have developed strong ties of friendship.
The majestic opening ceremony that took away the breath of the 68,000 spectators inside the stadium and the millions of TV viewers had a Greek stamp on it, since its art director was Dimitris Papaioannou from Greece. Dimitris Papaioannou focused on the tradition of Azerbaijan and composed an artfully structured program of Olympic specifications. The leading role was held by the four elements of nature, wind, water, earth and fire, while the circles were used throughout the ceremony. The entire stadium was covered by a circular stage, representing the sun and the moon, thus symbolising the circular continuity where there is no beginning and no end. Another important moment of the ceremony was the enactment of the Greek myth explaining where Europe got its name from: the abduction of Europe by Zeus who took on the form of a bull, stole her from Phoenice and carried her to Crete, where she gave birth to King Minoas.
The torch of the games was carried into the stadium, in an especially moving moment, by Ilham Zakiyev, the blind gold Paralympic medallist of Azerbaijan in Judo.
The great surprise by the organisers was the performance by Lady Gaga, who played the piano and sang John Lennon’s “Imagine”.
The ceremony closed with an amazing show of fireworks and the release of thousands of red balloons symbolising the seeds of the pomegranate, which is the emblem of the games.
In the framework of the First European Games, the famous exhibition “Grace Kelly, the Princess and Style Icon” also opened in the new and architecturally imposing building of the “Ηeydar Αliyev Center”. The exhibits are from the career of Grace Kelly (1929-1982) in the theatre, and as a princess, after she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Mythical gowns as well as her beautiful wedding dress, jewellery, letters, photographs and for the first time antique cars she had used, tell a uniquely moving story, unfolding her extraordinary personality. The ribbon was symbolically cut by HRH Prince Albert of Monaco and the First Lady of Azerbaijan, Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva. The event was attended by all the official guests of the opening ceremony of the Games, as well as the family of the Presidential couple of Azerbaijan. The exhibition will remain open to the public until the 1st of November 2015.
More than 6000 athletes are taking part in the First European Games, which were characterised by leading figures of sports as having the highest possible organising standards, in 20 sports and 253 disciplines, up until June 28th when the Games end.