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Major Sporting Coup of Belarus, 2nd European Games

MAJOR SPORTING COUP FOR BELARUS

For long Europe’s best-kept secret, visitors are now coming to Belarus in significant numbers following bold moves to substantially relax the visa regime for incoming travellers from abroad. There has never been a better time to walk through the door on the riches to discover here, and with the opening of the Second European Games (https://minsk2019.by/en) less than three months away in the newly refurbished Dinamo Stadium, now one of Europe’s best-appointed sports stadia, the country is set to welcome athletes, sports fans and tourists from all over the continent.

From 21 to 30 June, over 4,000 athletes will participate in a diverse range of 15 different sports; and with Olympic qualification up for grabs in 8 of the disciplines, Minsk 2019 represents a major step on the path to Tokyo 2020. Of around 50 participating countries, the United Kingdom is expected to send the largest team of all.

Everything participants, officials, support teams, journalists and sports fans might need (whether accessing the events themselves, accommodation or infrastructure facilities) is situated within Minsk itself, now one of Europe’s brightest and most exciting capital cities.

Athletes and officials will be accommodated in newly-upgraded university halls of residence, which will provide a lasting Games legacy for students and local people.

Access to all facilities will be quick and simple thanks to the superb infrastructure of roads and public transport, which is green, comprehensive, cheap and easy to use.

Fully 12 months before the Games were due to open, over 9,000 Belarusians from all over the country had already applied to play their part in making this a spectacular event, and now 8,000 Games volunteers have been selected and fully trained to be on hand with comprehensive information and a ready smile to assist athletes, spectators and journalists with their every need.

For visitors from abroad, access to the country has been much enhanced by the new visa-free rules (https://www.belarus.by/en/about-belarus/sport/2019-european-games-minsk). Minsk National Airport has been fully upgraded and access to the city centre is easy and trouble-free.

In recent times there has been exponential growth in the provision of high quality hotels, restaurants and bars all over the city, most of which can be readily accessed on foot. Dinamo Stadium itself, the main focus for the action, is located right in the heart of the city. All other venues are just a short hop away by car or by public transport.

Outside the Games themselves, Minsk has a myriad of attractions for the visitor. Almost completely destroyed by the Nazis in the Second World War (known here as ‘the Great Patriotic War’), the city rose from the flames of destruction in a massively ambitious programme of urban planning on the largest of scales. Today huge boulevards, vast areas of parkland and open space, fascinating architecture from classical to brutalist, and wide-open skies with expansive views await the eye of inquisitive visitors. Splendid theatres, museums and galleries are to be found around every corner. The streets are tidy and free of crime, with opportunities to walk and promenade at all hours of the day and night. 

Visitors without the ability to speak the Russian or Belarusian languages should have no fears. Good English is everywhere to be found, whether on the part of local people, staff in hotels, restaurants, bars and museums, Games volunteers or in the format of written information on the streets, online or in print media.

For visitors with time on their hands to explore beyond Minsk, a whole new world awaits, where history ancient and modern in the form of old villages, museum towns, palaces, sites of interest and monuments, beautiful cities, each with their own character and individual charms, unspoilt nature in national parks and vast tracts of primeval forest, lakeland and marsh with a huge of diversity of wildlife in its natural environment are all waiting to be discovered.

 

And Anglophiles everywhere may be interested to know that the opening weekend of the Games coincides with the GREAT British Festival 2019. Organised by the British Embassy and taking place on Sunday 23 June, on and around Freedom Square, the Festival will celebrate British culture and trade, and will seek to showcase the best of British in a range of fields, to promote Anglo-Belarusian mutual cooperation and liaisons. Last year’s Festival attracted around 100,000 visitors and with so much happening in Minsk this year around the European Games, this year’s event will surely build on last year’s success.

Says Nigel Roberts, author of four editions of the Bradt Travel Guide to Belarus (https://www.bradtguides.com/shop/belarus-3037.html) —

 “I came here for the first time in 2001 and I’ve been coming back ever since to unwrap more and more of this extraordinary country. Initially as trustee of a Chernobyl charity and then as a travel writer I’ve walked and driven the highways and ridden the rails into every corner, and 18 years on I’m still finding new things to discover. I can’t envisage a time when I’ll stop coming. The warmth and hospitality of Belarusians everywhere are a real joy to behold, and now that the doors to the country have been unlocked, these charming people are ready to welcome visitors with open arms. Travellers and tourists the world over are always looking for somewhere new to experience. What greater incentive can there be to sample the delights of Belarus?!”

Minsk 2019 and the Second European Games – 

Bright Year, Bright You!