Azerbaijan is building itself up to become a world-class sporting nation with the ability to host major international tournaments.
Azerbaijan’s efforts to become an international sporting nation are well under way. President Aliyev designated 2012 as the “Year of Sports,” and Azerbaijanis certainly lived up to the name. It was a historic year for their Olympians and Paralympians during London 2012. Azerbaijan’s Olympic team was ranked 15th in Europe, fifth in the CIS, and third among Muslim countries following a record haul of 10 medals. The country’s Paralympians managed an equally impressive grab of 12 medals, ranking 27th out of 166 countries.
Successes on the international stage were also mirrored back home. Azerbaijan hosted the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2012 spread across six venues in Baku and Lankaran, and hosted 16 teams. A total of 257,666 people attended the games at an average of 8,052 people per game. This cup was significant for many reasons; “it was the first tournament of its kind in Europe andin the Muslim world,” Elkhan Mammadov, Secretary General of the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) told TBY. The event was internationally recognized as a highly successful and well-organized tournament.
Azerbaijan’s proven ability to host a major tournament and its recent successes at the London Olympics will both have played a role in Baku being chosen to host the inaugural European Games in 2015. Azerbaijan has been improving its sporting infrastructure throughout the administration of President Aliyev. “Over the past 10 years, 35 Olympic complexes have been built,” Azad Rahimov, Minister of Youth and Sports told TBY, which included a gymnastics complex, the Republic Sport Medical Center, a Water Sports Palace, five stadiums, the redevelopment of Tofig Bahramov Stadium, and a new Olympic Stadium with a 65,000-person capacity costing $300 million. The Games will be a huge boost for Baku with an expected 5,000 athletes, 2,000 representatives of the media, 1,000 official delegates, and countless tourists descending on the city. As in any athletic event as large as this, a brand new village will be built to accommodate all the sporting, delegate, and media personnel. A major new media center will also be set up in Baku Crystal Hall to meet the needs of the press. The Ministry of Youth and Sports expects Baku to raise between ‚¬50 million and ‚¬100 million from the event. The main sources of revenue will come from advertising, broadcasting, ticket sales, and sponsorship of the event itself. To help save costs and increase final profits, Azerbaijan will build a host of temporary facilities for the games in various sports, the main one being beach volleyball. To help with all the organization of such a historic event, Lord Sebastian Coe, the London Olympics Executive Director, touched down in February 2013 in Baku to carry out a survey to help with the planning of the massive task ahead. Minister Rahimov is confident that Baku and Azerbaijan as a whole can rise to the occasion like it has in the past, saying, “we will be able to justify the confidence of the people who voted for the candidacy of Baku, and amaze the sporting community with our organizational experience.”
This decade is attesting to the fact that Azerbaijan is a sporting nation, as well as a major host of sporting events. On November 28, 2012 the World Chess Federation (FIDE) announced that Baku would host the World Chess Cup 2015 and the World Chess Olympiad 2016. Chess is a popular sport in Azerbaijan, and the opening of several chess schools in 2012 is evidence of that. Both cups will cost the government ‚¬15 million in total, with ‚¬3 million for the World Cup and the rest for the Olympiad. It is estimated that more than 170 countries and 3,000 people will participate in the Olympiad, up from the 160 countries in Istanbul 2012. There will also be children’s, youth, and national teams at the Olympiad. For the World Chess Cup, the 128 best players in the world will take part. As Azerbaijan plays host to more international events, its reputation as a home for sports is growing. The government has recently put together a committee, headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Yagub Eyyubov, in a bid to host the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017. In 2016, the U-17 UEFA European Championship Final Tournament in will be hosted in the country, and the summer of 2013 will see the Caspian Cup come to the country. Azerbaijan is building the foundations to become a sporting nation through hosting major international events and developing infrastructure for the population to use.
A Decade of Progress, A Future of Possibilities
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