Baku, Azerbaijan, May 25
By Elena Kosolapova - Trend:
Very often the question is asked "Where is Azerbaijan?", Azerbaijani Youth and Sports Minister Azad Rahimov said.
"After the Eurovision song contest [which the country hosted in 2012, after winning in 2011] and after the European Games, most people will know the answer," Rahimov said in an interview with EurActiv website.
The minister said that the Baku 2015 European Games are a very good chance to improve our sports infrastructure and to speed up projects we have been planning for a long time. It's also a chance for our young people to gather experience from a large-scale event.
"Two and a half years ago, it was very difficult to find 10 young people with basic understanding how to organize such an event," he said. "Now we have over 1000 young people involved in the Baku games operating committee, who have gained experience, and will be able to promote themselves in different markets, and help organize similar events in different countries."
"It will be a major chance to show Baku to the world as a European country, as a Muslim, but secular state, as a good bridge between East and West, between the Muslim Orient and the Christian Europe, and to show the beauty of the country, its very ancient history, our music, art, food and hospitality," he said. "It is very important for a country that gained independence only 23 years ago to position itself on the map of Europe as a European country."
The minister said that to organize Olympic Games is a pretty expensive project for any country.
"The advantage of Baku is that we are focusing on the existing venues, doing refurbishing work," the minister said. "We are using multifunctional venues, such as the Cristal Hall, which hosted the Eurovision song contest. Now it's a venue hosting five sports during the European Games."
"We base ourselves on temporary buildings in the Olympic park, where we host water polo, 3x3 basketball, beach football and beach volleyball," the minister said.
"And we also build new buildings. But again, from the point of view of legacy, the three big arenas that were built during the last two years, the Olympic football stadium, the Aquatic centre, and the Shooting Centre, were planned before the idea of the European Games came about," he said.
"This question only concerns the three new venues," the minister said. "I'm sure that the Aquatic Centre will be totally full with people and will repay the expenses. It will be similar with the Shooting Centre, which people will be able to use without an entrance fee. The only big risk is the football stadium, because it's a huge arena."
"The operational budget is money specially dedicated to the European Games," he said. "It is 960 million manats [€820 million] and I can say with a lot of pride that we are not overspending it. We are using the model of Olympic Games, which is that the International Olympic committee pays all expenses for sport competitors to come to the games. They are paying for their transport expenses, their accommodation, and their food."
Baku 2015 is the first-ever European Games, an exciting and innovative multi-sport event for the continent that will take place on June 12-28, 2015.
There will be a total of 20 sports at Baku 2015: 16 Olympic sports and four non-Olympic sports. More than 6,000 athletes from across Europe will be representing their nations over 17 days of competition.
Baku was awarded the games by the European Olympic Committees (EOC) in December 2012.
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