Baku 2012: ‘Year of Eurovision’

Baku 2012: ‘Year of Eurovision’

An unforgettable day for all of Azerbaijan... May 14, 2011. On that day, we all were slightly shocked at the thought that "Eurovision" is coming to Azerbaijan ... It was a shock, not because of doubts about the country's possibilities. Not a mite. Just because when you wait something to happen and dream about it for a long time, its occurrence surprises you despite all your readiness. Exactly, the same happened to us.

Eurovision-2012 Song Contest in Baku is not only a great victory, but also a good opportunity to present ourselves as we are. President Ilham Aliyev spoke about this in one of his interviews. He stated that everyone who comes to Azerbaijan, Baku, with good intentions can easily see the changes our country has seen over the past years. "After the victory I heard comments that many in Europe are asking, "Where is Azerbaijan, is it in Europe? How can they participate in this competition? Azerbaijan is not in Europe," President Aliyev said. In this sense, the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Baku will be an excellent opportunity for the further proximity of Azerbaijan and Europe.

No doubts, we have become accustomed to our victories in sports and other fields over the past years. However, the Eurovision, no matter how many views are voiced, is the biggest European music event and bringing it to home is a great victory and great success.

Azerbaijan's victory in Düsseldorf was not unexpected, as it was achieved thanks to hard work and talent, especially themselves, Eldar and Nigar. However, this victory is the result of deliberate state policy aimed at comprehensive development of the youth, realization of its intellectual and creative potential. Azerbaijan is now in stage of gaining experience in hosting Europe-wide activities. A few years ago, even we ourselves might doubt whether Baku will be able to worthy hold such a grand event.

However, over the past time these doubts disappeared. Today not only local, but also foreign experts, state that the Eurovision-2012 may be the most vivid and spectacular event in the history of this contest. Their forecasts are well grounded, based on the capabilities of contemporary Azerbaijan, its rich tradition in holding such events and an incredible brightness of culture. Eldar and Nigar have already demonstrated that we have something to show the world. Those who will be enough lucky to come to Azerbaijan in May 2012, will evidence that Azerbaijan deserves to host large-scale events and it's worth to visit the country.

About five months are left for the contest. Azerbaijan is preparing in a unity for the reception of numerous guests. According to preliminary estimates, there will be tens of thousands guests. The exact figure has been not calculated so far.

To date, 40 countries have already confirmed their participation in the contest, and the number of the countries becomes more and more every day. That is, not only the singer, but also their funs and supporters, tourists will come to Azerbaijan.

First of all, hotels should be ready to receive such a number of visitors. Baku in 2011 opened a number of luxury hotels, such as Kempinski Вadamdar and Hilton Bakı. Soon, here will be opened hotels Marriot, Four seasons, Fairmond and Jumeirah. Construction of 6 five-star hotels in Baku over the past two years suggests that investors and global brands eye Baku as elite tourism center," President Ilham Aliyev said on this occasion.

Moreover, Azerbaijani Culture and Tourism Minister Abulfaz Garayev said, given that the most of the Eurovision-2012 guests will be young people, there also will be encouraged construction of cheaper hotels- two-star or three-star hotels. Such hotels have an important role in promoting tourism in Europe.

Azerbaijan also seeks to improve the online booking of hotels during the "Eurovision-2012" so that guests can easily book online. In parallel with other work, the Azerbaijani Tourism Agencies' Association in cooperation with local tour companies and hotels is working on a special tour packages for the Eurovision guests. Packages will be prepared in accordance with the number of guests. The packages will include all services, beginning form meeting the guests at the airport to seeing them off. The talks are underway with the hotels and restaurants, and the heads of transport companies with a view to ensure these organizations. Work is also underway to include the tickets to show into the packages.

Azerbaijan's hotel capacity is high enough. The number of new hotels, resorts, boardings and other facilities for recreation exceeds 500. According to recent data, the capacity of guest houses, campsites, tourism sites and other facilities for recreation can accommodate 32,000 guests. Therefore, Azerbaijan will not face difficulties to accommodate such a great number of guests. As for the quality of services provided here, today, the travel agencies has a priority task such as to train certified professionals, guides, tour guides, who will acquaint visitors with Baku and the country. In addition, special courses will be organized for the staff of Baku's hotels.

Preparations continue in full force. According to recent reports, Azerbaijan works on developing several versions of the stage concept and the "green room" (a waiting room after the speeches) for the Eurovision 2012 song contest. The concept is being prepared together with the Eurovision 2012 official partner - German "Brainpool GmbH". The authors said it would be completely different from the previous contests' stages for its design, lights and other effects. There also will be prepared the concept of the show reflecting the history and culture of ancient Azerbaijan.

Regarding the venue of the Eurovision Song Contest, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Social and Political Department Chief Ali Hasanov earlier stated that three places can be considered as the venue for this event. He said the places suggested to hold the event are the Heydar Aliyev Sports-Concert Complex, Tofig Bahramov Stadium and a concert venue, which is currently under construction.

Today, the reinforced construction is being carried out in the Tofig Bahramov Stadium. The main design "chip" in this reconstruction will be the stadium roof. Several huge steel poles will support it. Their installation will soon be launched. Now, the preparatory work is underway here.

It is interesting that top of the stadium tribunes will be closed. Furthermore, there will be constructed an additional tribune, lockers and other facilities, whereas seats will be replaced and automotive drainage system will be created.

Now, let's see the other object, which may be the most important thing for the Eurovision-2012 -the Sports and Concert Complex "Baku Crystal Hall". The German company Alpine BAU Deutschland AG is engaged in the realization of this grandiose project outside the State Flag Square. It is planned that just the Baku Crystal Hall will be a venue for this unforgettable holiday of music. Probably, it's unnecessary to mention that the place for this hall was chosen well. So, even those, who will not be able to get acquainted with Baku, will be able to see an amazing panorama of the Azerbaijani capital, which opens here.

The complex is designed for 23,000 seats. It should be noted for comparison that, the Oslo stadium that hosted the Eurovision-2010 could accommodate 4,000 people and the Düsseldorf stadium that hosted the Eurovision-2011 - 10,000. As they say, no comment.

Given that no much time is left for the contest, the construction of the main arena proposed to host the Eurovision-2012 is being conducted in a unique way: the field, the facade and roof of the stadium being built at the same time.

Based on the contract, the German company is committed to complete the arena construction by March 31, 2012. The German company "gmp" is the general project designer and Swiss company Nussen is the stadium designer. There also will be constructed a media center for 1,500 people near the complex. The contractor certifies that the Complex will meet all requirements and standards, including in terms of security. As, in case of any emergency situation 23,000 visitors can be evacuated from the stadium in just eight minutes ...that is simply unbelievable.

Speaking about the contest venue and the security issues, willy-nilly it is important to touch quite a familiar theme of "black PR" against Azerbaijan. Indeed, there appeared reports in local and foreign media about the violation of the citizens' property rights in connection with the preparation for the Eurovision-2012. Particularly, several British media led by BBC, unreasonably argue that allegedly the citizens' property rights violated and no compensation paid to those, whose homes were destroyed in connection with the construction of the Baku Crystal Hall. No doubts, the Armenian media creates and strengthens such an atmosphere. For example, the Armenian sites such as panorama.am, times.am perform daily monitoring of the Azerbaijani and foreign media with a view to find materials causing defamatory to the competition.
Unfortunately, some local media serve as a reliable source for the Armenian propaganda. One can name a number of such materials that unreasonable, knowingly appear in some local newspapers and then reprinted in the Armenian press, and replicated in several languages. No one thinks about the fact that the issue of demolishing the buildings outside the Flag Square was raised before Azerbaijan's victory in the Eurovision. Moreover, the Baku Crystal Hall is not constructed on the place of these buildings or close to this site, but near the shipyard. Also, there was not a single case of non-payment of compensation.

On the other hand, our enemies attempt to present Baku in the opposite side, to fill with misgivings those who do not question their participation in the Eurovision-2012. All this is not surprising. It is enough to recall what a black PR was created against the Eurovision 2011 winners and Azerbaijan as a whole after the triumph in Dusseldorf. Baku was accused of plagiarism, almost in bribery and other sins. But as time passed, everything became clear. The victory of El & Nikki was deserved, it is recognized by one hundred millionth of the European audience, the voices that can not be challenged or called into question by someone's biased opinion.

Now, our opponents left the "creative" moments, and began to take care of the safety of the Eurovision 2012 guests, especially visitors from Armenia. A clear and precise position of Baku can be a response to them.

Today, Azerbaijan is the most stable and secure country in the post-Soviet space, Ali Hasanov stated earlier. He said Azerbaijan, having sufficient experience in holding the major international events, is ready to ensure the safety of tourists, journalists and delegations.

Emphasizing that local and foreign press recently more and more raises the question whether Azerbaijan is ready to meet, accommodate, ensure security and resolve issues with visas of many people, he said the Azerbaijani government is willing and able to organize the necessary conditions for the Eurovision Song Contest in accordance with the requirements of the European Broadcasting Union and establish a safe and comfortable working conditions and opportunities for all who take part in the competition. "Azerbaijan is not accustomed to divide the guests for some features - whether religious, national, sexual or any other," Hasanov said.

The Azerbaijani Interior Ministry's officers will ensure the peace and order in Baku, as well as the security of the guests during the Eurovision Song Contest, Azerbaijani Interior Ministry's spokesman Ehsan Zahidov said when responding to the question of the Armenian side's worries over their safety in Baku. The Azerbaijani police will not tolerate any excesses that might damage the country's image, he said, assuring that any emergency or adverse event would be strongly suppressed. All necessary measures will be taken during the contest with a view to ensure the secure protection of public order and safety of the guests.

Some also voiced concerns about the problems with the use of plastic cards and phishing attacks that may occur in connection with the influx of visitors during the Eurovision in Baku. However, the country works to prevent such cases and this work is not only associated with the Eurovision. The Azerbaijani Taxes Ministry reported that there was created a special working committee that developed a special package of proposals on bringing non-cash payments to international standards through the study of international experience. In addition, a growing number of POS-terminals is being installed in Baku. Taxes Minister Fazil Mammadov said over 2,000 POS-terminals were installed over the past six months only in Baku and today the total number of terminals reach 13,000.

The question of visa granting was also much discussed in the light of the grand musical event. "The visa issues are under consideration, and every effort is made to create favorable opportunities for the guests of our capital," Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev said. He added that the ministry is working to create an enabling environment for tourists and delegations, who will visit Azerbaijan to take part in the contest. "Our main goal is to satisfy the guests with these conditions," Abdullayev said.

Ali Hasanov also commented on the issue of visas, saying that prior to the contest there will be selected specific solution that will allow tens of thousands of people arriving in Azerbaijan, to easily get a visa. "I do not think there will be any problems in the issue of visas," he said.

Given the work being carried out in this sphere, the guests and participants of the Eurovision-2012 in Baku will not experience any problems with communication and the Internet. For example, the Internet channel with capacity of 8Mbit / s will be engaged in online-broadcasting of the contest. Also, shopping malls, restaurants and other public places in Baku will be covered by Wi-Fi.

As for museums, historic reserves and other cultural institutions, as well as clubs and restaurants, we can say that being in Baku and not tasting the Azerbaijani cuisine or not viewing its architectural sights will be a big mistake. Our dear guests will see a great network of restaurant type facilities, cafes and snack bars in Baku. So, the visitors cannot avoid the opportunity to feel the beauty of culinary aesthetics of Azerbaijan.

The rich historical past and bright cultural palette would make the stay in Baku as an interesting and varied program for each guest. Today, the Azerbaijani Tourism University prepares guides for info tours to be set up in Baku and Absheron peninsula. The Ministry will also organize tours in Gobustan, Gala, Atashgah and other places of interest.

Certainly, many guests would like to visit the beautiful scenery of Azerbaijan, if so they will be offered the services of quality highways, special transportation and an extensive network of tourist infrastructure in the Azerbaijani regions...

Almost all, including doctors, police officers, transport workers, taxi drivers, salesmen, in Baku are in preparations for the Eurovision as the main event of 2012.

Reportedly, experts of the Baku city ambulance and emergency medical care now pass the English language courses. Ambulances will be on duty at all public places during the Eurovision contest. The Baku police also intensively study the English language. Police will mainly ensure public order in the city and help tourists that get lost or faced with a challenge.

If we talk about the road transport system development in Azerbaijan, then no words will be enough to imagine the volume of work being carried out in this regard. Bridges, road junctions, road tunnels and pedestrian crossings are being constructed in the most visited places in the city. An intelligent transportation system will be launched in the near future. All these are conducted for the convenience and pleasure of the visitors and the people themselves, because after the contest all this beauty will remain to us.

Baku purchased some 50 units of special buses "Shuttle Bus" and a great number of "London taxi". Recently, another batch of cabs has been brought in Baku and now their number reached 500. These taxis not only give a special beauty to Baku roads, but will also allow many of the Eurovision guests to feel at home.

No doubts, the Eurovision guests will show a great interest in the sea voyages to be organized on the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea.

Reportedly, two ferries are under the renovation to this end The interior of vessels will be completely changed. They will be completely renovated and be ready to welcome the guests and residents of Baku. All conditions will be created to this end. Cabins, restaurants and other rooms will look more beautiful after the renovation. The capacity of the ferry will be more than 100 seats each.

Thus, soon we will be safely say that Baku is ready for the Eurovision Song Contest. Our kind city at the deep blue sea is always happy to greet guests. Nowhere else, you feel such a great hospitability, as in Azerbaijan. The contest will end, music will be silent, spotlight will turn off, but after May 2012, Azerbaijan will have more friends. And it's important for us ...

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