Baku 2015: Team GB to send 150 athletes to inaugural Euro Games

gymnast in Baku, Azerbaijan
Young gymnast practices on the pommel horse in Baku, Azerbaijan

Competing in the inaugural 2015 Baku European Games could boost prospects of British success at the Rio Olympics.

That is the view of Mark England - Team GB's chef de Mission for next year's tournament - which runs 12-28 June.

The Games in Azerbaijan, will act as a Rio qualification event for nine of the 16 featured Olympic sports.

"It [Baku 2015] is an exciting opportunity for Team GB and will form a crucial part of the journey to Rio for our athletes," England told BBC Sport.

"The Games are also a fantastic opportunity for young athletes vying to be part of Team GB in 2016, 2020 and beyond to experience a multisport event of this scale."

Chef de mission England anticipates that Team GB will send a squad of around 150 athletes for the inaugural Games which will feature a number of established internationals as well as rising talent.

In addition to the 16 Olympic sports the Baku programme also includes three non-Olympic sports; beach soccer, 3x3 basketball and karate.

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A Paralympic visually impaired judo competition will also be integrated with the non-disabled event.

"We wanted to innovate and not be constrained," Baku 2015 chief executive Simon Clegg told BBC Sport.

"This is an exciting opportunity and the fact we had to turn down 14 sports who wanted to be part of the programme demonstrates the interest."

Several Olympic sport international governing bodies have admitted in the past that they have struggled to fund biannual European Championships.

It is thought that a multi-sport 'European Games' could help relieve the burden on some of these organisations in the future.

"I think it creates a catalyst for change," continued Clegg who was the British Olympic Association chief executive for 12 years.

"Everyone recognises how strong the Pan-American and Pan-Asia championship brands are.

"We want a Europeans to at least stand alongside those - if not become the leading multi-sport regional Games."

Clegg insists all Baku 2015 competition venue construction is "on schedule" with the final structures - for athletics, shooting and swimming - due to be completed in early February next year.

The record-breaking performances of the Great Britain gymnasts at the recent European Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria secured Team GB their first berths for Baku 2015 with more expected in the coming months.