On December 8th 2012, the European Olympics Committee (EOC) voted to hold the inaugural European Olympic Games in the Azerbaijani capital Baku in 2015. The event, which will be held between the 12th and 28th of June, is seen as a major coup for Azerbaijan and further evidence of its increasing role and exposure on the European and international stage.

“Azerbaijan will ensure excellent organisation of this event, and Baku will be part of the history of the European Olympic Games”, announced President Ilham Aliyev when Baku was chosen by the EOC.

The European Olympic Games were devised to run parallel to other continental games such as the Pan-Asian, Pan-American and All African Games every four years. The inaugural games in Baku will cover 19 different sporting disciplines and incorporate an estimated 6,351 athletes. The ministry of youth and sports estimates that the total investment will come to between US$200-300 million and will attract 15,000-20,000 visitors to Baku.

Am Sportman Showing FlagAzerbaijan won 10 medals at London 2012

Since the announcement, the authorities in Azerbaijan have set about developing major sporting infrastructure to accommodate the event, with an eye on hosting further major international sporting events in the future. The main Olympic stadium will hold some 68,000 spectators while an Olympic Village and various other major sporting complexes are being built.

But although the announcement came in December, the development of Azerbaijan’s sporting infrastructure has been quietly taking place for many years, as part of efforts to re-invest Azerbaijan’s oil and gas wealth in other areas of its economy and development.

“We have opened 36 Olympic sport complexes since 2000 and every year two or three are being built”, explains Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s minister of youth and sports.

This investment in sports and infrastructure has led to great improvements on the international stage for Azerbaijan’s athletes. After picking up just one medal in the 1996 Atlanta Games, Azerbaijan’s medal haul began to improve and they won ten in London 2012, finishing 30th in the overall medals table.

“For a small country like Azerbaijan to have won ten medals in the Olympic Games really shows a logical development of sports in our country,” Rahimov highlights.

Factbox

1996

Azerbaijan wins just one medal at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games

2012

Azerbaijan achieves its best medal haul yet at London 2012, bringing home 10 medals and finishing 30th in the medals table

2015

Baku will hold the inaugural European Olympic Games in June

2020

Baku is bidding to become one of the host cities for the Euro 2020 football championship