(ATR) Azerbaijan sports minister Azad Rahimov hints that a bid for the 2024 Olympics could be announced following a comprehensive review of the European Games.
Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan Minister of Youth and Sport and Baku 2015 CEO (ATR)
“Now, I say we cannot announce it at the moment,” Rahimov told reporters at a press conference in Baku Friday. “Of course, the European Games are one of the steps to show how countries are ready to host big sport events."
“This kind of multi-sport event allows us to really monitor the athletes, the delegations coming and the organization,” he added.
Commenting on the European Games being used as a springboard for a tilt at the 2024 Games, he said: “It is at a very good level on the way to that."
The 17-day multi-sport event in the Azeri capital has been widely considered a success by Baku 2015, leaders of international federations and the European Olympic Committees. Athletes have said that the venues, level of competition and overall experience in Baku has been top-notch.
Baku bid for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics but failed to make the IOC shortlist of candidate cities.
Rahimov proceeded to list the numerous international sporting events that Baku will host in the coming years.
Those scheduled include next year’s World Chess Olympiad, Formula One racing in July 2016, the European U-17 Football Championships, UEFA Euro 2020 matches, the World Junior Sailing Championships and the 2017 Islamic Games.
“It shows that we are preparing for the next step, we are checking our possibilities and also we are promoting our country and sport,” Rahimov said.
Although Baku’s 68,000-seat national stadium would be ideal for ceremonies and athletics, Rahimov noted that the aquatics center, where European Games swimming events are being contested, would not be suitable for the Olympics.
It currently has a seating capacity of 6,000, well below the IOC requirement of 15,000.
Lack of accommodations could also pose a challenge for a Baku Olympic bid. The city's stock of 10,000 hotel rooms is well below the 40,000 required for hosting the Olympics.
Given the country’s estimated $4-8 billion investment in European Games preparations – including approximately $1 billion spent on travel and accommodations for every athlete competing – the oil-rich country would presumably be willing to spend more to land the 2024 Olympics.
Included in the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms is an IOC invitation phase for the 2024 bidding contest. IOC officials have already held talks with Boston, Budapest, Hamburg, Paris and Rome to discuss their Olympic plans, vision and legacy for the Games.
This phase would allow Azerbaijan's sports leaders to discuss any potential requirement reductions for hosting the Games.
understands that Azerbaijan has not so far engaged with the IOC in this invitation phase, which precedes the Sept 15 deadline for submissions from NOCs for the 2024 Olympics.
Rahimov said the final decision about a 2024 bid rests with the Azerbaijani government.
Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev is also the president of the country’s NOC. The overall success of the European Games will be a determining factor in his decision on whether or not to enter the race for 2024.
“We have time until September 15 to have analysis of the European Games, to see where we are, how we are, what our future possibilities are and after I think our decision will be made,” Rahimov said.
Reported in Baku by Brian Pinelli
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