Sofia has officially been named 2018 Capital of Sport at a ceremony in Brussels. Mayor Yordanka Fandakova accepted the symbolic relay and the flag from Marseille in the presence of three legendary Bulgarian champions: Tereza Marinova, Ekaterina Dafovska and Yordan Yovchev. The ceremony was attended by the chairman of Sofia Municipal Council Elen Gerdjikov, MEP Andrey Kovachev, municipal councillors and athletes. “Sofia will be a successful European capital of sport because we all believed, dreamed and worked for it,” Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandakova said at the official ceremony for announcing Sofia as the European capital of sport in 2018. The big Bulgarian athletes, whom I thank for the support, have been with us all the time. This has personally been a cause for me that will provide additional incentives for the city and for people to do sport,” the mayor of Sofia said. She then added that in a matter of several years only there were 44 playgrounds with outdoor fitness facilities and 17 playgrounds for sports and play built in Sofia. “We built 78 gymnasiums in kindergartens, as well as 14 swimming pools. We reconstructed 7 and built 10 new gymnasiums in schools. We are currently building a sports hall, with the expansion of the First English Language High School and School 112. In 2018 we will continue to build gymnasiums at 4 kindergartens and 2 schools,” Fandakova said. Sofia will host more than 200 sporting events next year. Among them – the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship, the World Volleyball Championship for Men, Tennis - ATP Garanti Koza Sofia Open, the Balkan Athletics, etc.
“The opportunity for children and their parents alike to meet real sport champions and to witness competitions is an additional incentive for many of them to engage in sports and achieve success,” Fandakova said. “Over the past two years Sofia Municipality has supported 69 projects under the Children and Adolescent Sports Development Programme aiding sports clubs working with children,” the mayor recalled. Sofia mayor Fandakova thanked MEP Andrey Kovachev, the Sofia Municipal Council, the Ministry of Youth and Sport and personally Minister Kralev, the Bulgarian Olympic Committee and Mrs. Stefka Kostadinova, the National Sports Academy and all 40 National Sports federations and clubs for their work in supporting Sofia. The new “Vazrazhdane” sports complex and park were built in 2015, and the “Festivalna” Hall, the “Academica” Hall, the “Sofia” Hall in the Borisova Garden, a part of the “Vassil Levski” National Stadium were rehabilitated with the support of the state, and the “Winter Palace” Complex is currently being renovated. “It is an honour to be here and to be part of the team receiving the flag of the European Capital of Sport. We will be the best capital of sport,” the legendary athlete Yordan Yovchev said during the ceremony. Andrey Kovatchev once again gave a speech in the crowded hall about the role of sport for the future of a united and strong Europe. This MEP was instrumental in the idea for the Bulgarian capital to apply and win the title of European Capital of Sport three years ago. “The team in Bulgaria has worked very actively in the past 2 to 3 years and has done a great deal of informational and organizational activities. We are pleased to note that Sofia is among the best prepared of the 17 world-famous cities that have deserved this recognition,” Gian Francesco Lupattelli, president of ACES Europe, the organisation which identifies a European capital, city, community and village of sport each year, said. The chairman of the Sofia Municipal Council Elen Gerdjikov explained details about the infrastructure projects, reminding the audience that the city administration would not allow the change of the purpose of the sports facilities in parks and gardens. “Our big goal with Sofia – European Capital of Sport is to lay the foundations for a sustainable model that will remain for the benefit of citizens and guests of the city, we want to continue our activity even after 2018,” Gerdjikov, who is also the chairman of the managing board of the Sofia – European Capital of Sport Foundation, said. Sofia was appointed as the 2018 European Capital of Sport three years ago and the decision was announced by ACES Europe’s Evaluation Committee, with the rationale that “the city is a good example of sport for all, as a tool for improvement of the healthy lifestyle, integration and education, which are in the foundation of the initiative.” Having been chosen for 2018, Sofia now ranks among cities that have over the past century proven their contribution to the development of many sports with their holding hundreds of national and world championships on their territory. The decision is based on the possibilities and intentions of the respective localities, with the assumption that sport is a factor that influences the development of society, improves the quality of life, promotes good health and the integration of the individual social communities. For the past three years in preparation for the culmination, the team of Sofia 2018 organized over 200 events and activities, initiated a number of infrastructure projects and deployed a large-scale information campaign. Hundreds of thousands of participants, guests and spectators got involved in more than 200 events and activities, organized at the initiative of Sofia – European Capital of Sport over the past three years. At the same time, Sofia Municipality has been spending more and more funds on sports, including for improvement of the sports infrastructure.