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Can Baku Come From Behind To Win 2016 Olympic Race?

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Alex Rodriguez, foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, writes the idea of Azerbaijan bidding to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games was hatched last year when Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliev, said to his Youth and Sports Minister Azad Rahimov, “why are we not trying to be one of the bidding countries for the Olympics in, let’s say, 2016?”

According to the Tribune Baku is regarded as the longest of the long shots compared to the other six cities bidding for the 2016 Games because it lacks the international profile and its relationship with the Olympic movement is relatively brief.

The city also lacks the transportation infrastructure and network of hotels needed to host the high profile event.

But, according to the newspaper, what Azerbaijan does have is oil. The country produces 730,000 barrels of oil daily which would pay for Baku’s bid. Rahimov, a member of the bid team said, “oil money coming into the Azerbaijani economy in the next 20 years will be $200 billion. That’s a huge amount for our people”.

Rahimov and other Azerbaijani Olympic officials acknowledge that building a theme for the bid is still a work in progress, since the country is a nation wedged between East and West.

Chingiz Guseynzade, a vice president of the Azerbaijan National Olympic Committee says, “maybe the idea behind our bid will be making a better connection between East and West.

As for infrastructure, Baku’s downtown seaside esplanades are reportedly overshadowed by sprawling docks filled with stacks of freight containers and rows of loading cranes.

Rahimov says port operations will be moved to “another part of Azerbaijan”, although he does not have an estimate how much that would cost.

According to the Tribune, officials also plan to revamp the city’s airport and build 60 hotels in Baku and more outside the city. At least three more subway stations would be built at the airport, Olympic Village and Olympic Stadium on Baku’s outskirts.

Guseynzade wouldn’t reveal much about Azerbaijan’s plans for sports venues, only that they will meet the standards needed for 2016.

While acknowledging chances of Baku winning the 2016 bid are small, Rahimov says, “submitting a bid now builds a foundation for a time when Azerbaijan is better known and better positioned to bid again. These preparations will give us a lot of experience, and we want that. And for a small country like ours it also means fantastic publicity”. Write or read comments about this article

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