There are still two matches to be played, all three medals to be awarded and the All-star team to be announced, but EHF President Jean Brihault saves no superlatives when commenting on the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland prior to its culmination.
“This has been extremely well organised EURO,” says Brihault. “This is not a surprise given the close cooperation in the run-up to the EURO and the quality of events that took place here to publicise the EURO, like the draw or the friendly games, etc.”
Poland 2016 has already set several new records in relation to spectator numbers and TV audience figures, but Brihault also draws attention to the enormously thrilling sporting aspect. The tournament in Gdansk, Katowice, Wroclaw and Krakow has seen a number of surprising results and matches decided in the last minutes. Underdogs have prevailed, and favourites have crumbled.
“On the sport level it was an extremely open tournament. Nobody could have anticipated their team's presence during the final weekend. I think this is a very good signal concerning European handball, that we have this renewal of teams,” the EHF President pointed out.
“It would not be good if the same nations were always dominant. Inside this I would make a special mention of Germany because this is a traditional top nation of Europe, but here they appeared with a completely new team, with a new approach, a lot of dynamism and freshness. So all this is part of the same logic of renewal on a very high level of European handball.”
There were only a few occasions when the playing arenas were not completely full – even the games in the venues with no large fan group from abroad were played in front of full stands.
“This has been the third key element of this event – the popular success. The venues were almost always sold-out and I hope also the final day will be sold-out. This underlines that it was an exceptional popular success. This is due to the good organisation I was mentioning earlier, and also to all the cities that made all the effort to promote this event. In Poland you really cannot miss that this tournament is going on,” said Brihault, for whom the 2016 European championship is the fourth and last in the top position of the EHF.
“My position is that everybody can be replaced very easily. It was my last EURO in the official position, but this makes no difference. Of course, I expect there will be some emotions from my side in a totally private way when we conclude the EURO, but apart from that this is just part of an extraordinary progress of all our competitions throughout the years. I am sure the next organisers will again try to take our competition the next step higher.”
On Sunday the EHF EURO relay baton will be symbolically handed over to Croatia, who will host the event in 2018. Jean Brihault is optimistic that the organisers will be able to further improve the standards of the flagship national team event.
“The mark has been placed at a very high level here in Poland, but I suppose there is real pride on each organisers' part – that they want to do at least as well as the predecessor. They do not always succeed but they always try.
“What I think the others have to learn from this organisation is that all the efforts made prior saw us make an event that people are awaiting and expecting and want to be part of,” concluded Brihault.