Baku opens European Games with fabulous ‘$100mn’ ceremony (FULL VIDEO)

Artists perform on stage during the opening ceremony of the 1st European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, June 12 , 2015. (Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach)
The stunning opening ceremony of the inaugural European Games took place in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku at a cost of about $100mn, according to the country’s sports minister. The two-hour show even featured Lady Gaga singing the John Lennon song “Imagine.”

The opening ceremony for June 12-28 European Games – first of its kind – took place at the new Olympic stadium, which was only finished in the spring and can hold 70,000 spectators. Featuring some 2,000 dancers and artists, the Friday event included a “surprise” performance by the famous US singer Lady Gaga, who apparently had to hide in a local hotel for several days to keep her arrival secret.

Traditional music and about 1,000 female dancers set the stage for the lighting of the flame ceremony, which officially opened the games. It was followed by an exposition dedicated to the literary writing of the famous 12th century Azeri poet, Nizami Ganjavi.

Over 6,000 athletes took part in the opening ceremony, which represented all 50 European nations, which have National Olympic Committees.

The dazzling ceremony was concluded by a popular Middle East folk dance ‘Yalli,’ which was performed by over 2,000 people.

“Some invoices haven’t been cleared. We won’t be able to say how much it cost until the end of the games,” Azerbaijan’s Minister for Youth and Sports, Azad Ragimov said at a press conference on Saturday, before stating the total amount would be in the region of $100 million, TASS reported.

Among the guests of honor at the opening ceremony were Russian President Vladimir Putin, the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The evening also included speeches from first lady of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva, the President of the European Olympic Committee, Patrick Hickey, and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, who officially declared the Games open.

“We are creating a landmark moment in European sport. Tonight we add the missing fifth ring to the continental Games of the world. And through Europe’s first Games, we bind the five continents of the Olympic Movement even closer together,” Hickey said.

Fierworks explode during the opening ceremony of the 1st European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, June 12 , 2015. Picture taken with a fish-eye lens. (Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach)

During the first day of the competition on Saturday, 13 sets of medals were up for grabs in sports such as mountain biking, karate, triathlon and wrestling. A total of 253 are set to be won across 20 different sports over the course of the games.

“The Games that started in Baku are a good and challenging experiment, that had to occur”, three-time Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling champion, Aleksandr Karelin told TASS. “I hope it will also have a high level of competition. This will be the first such games in history so there are many risks and many expectations. But Europe is a cradle of the Olympic movement and it deserves to have its own games.”

The decision to organize the European games was taken on December 8, 2012, at the 41st General assembly of the various European Olympic Committees. The Netherlands is to be the next host of the European Games in 2019.