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An agreement was officially signed in Rome on March 7 to confirm that Tbilisi will host the European Youth Olympic Festival in the summer of 2015.

European Olympic Committees President Patrick Hickey, Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava and Georgian National Olympic Committee President Gia Natsvlishvili all signed the document at headquarters of the European Olympic Committees. This ratified Tbilisi’s status as host city after the decision was initially reached in November last year at the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committees.

Tbilisi had been chosen ahead of Brno, Czech Republic in a 26-21 vote. Notably, the Russian delegation backed the Tbilisi bid despite the well-known tense relations between the countries.

The festival is a relatively new event having been launched in 1991 in Brussels and this will be the first time that a country from the Caucasus will host the games.

The EYOF is held ever two years and had both a summer and winter version. This year’s winter festival was held last month in Liberec in the Czech Republic where Germany topped the medal table and Georgia’s 6 competing athletes missed out on a medal.

The biennial festival is open to competitors from all 49 of the member nations in the Association of the European Olympic Committees. The age limit for athletes wishing to compete varies depending on the sport however the vast majority of competitors will be aged below 17 years.

At this year’s summer event across the border in Trabzon, Turkey, there are expected to be 4000 athletes competing from all 49 qualifying nations.

Sports involved in the games are athletics, basketball, cycling, gymnastics, handball, judo, swimming, tennis and volleyball.

In 2007 in Belgrade, Serbia the sports of table tennis and water polo were also included so there is a chance that Tbilisi 2015 may have a slightly different selection of events.

The event will be seen as a great opportunity for Georgia to show the rest of Europe its capabilities as a developed, European country.

Even though the EYOF is not an event of anywhere near the same standing as the Olympic Games themselves, it is still seen as a significant step towards being considered and accepted as a European state.

It will also present the next generation of Georgian athletes with a chance to perform in front of their home fans in a major youth sporting event. Many of the competing athletes will go on to take part in the Olympic Games proper so this will also offer the Tbilisi sports fans a glimpse of the European sporting stars of the future.

The majority of the events will take place at Dinamo Stadium and the Sports Palace. The organisers have launched a website – www.tbilisi2015.com – which will provide competitors, officials and spectators with information on all of the events when the festival approaches.

Georgia Today

M.B

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