Azerbaijan aims to create Olympics buzz with bid to host Euro 2020 matches
In this Monday, May 21, 2012 file photo Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev arrives at the NATO Summit in Chicago. Azerbaijan state president Ilham Aliyev has signed off full government support for the bid to host 2020 European Championship matches after it was twice rejected by the IOC as a candidate city for the Olympics. (AP / M. Spencer Green)
Published Friday, September 20, 2013 8:22AM EDT
DUBROVNIK, Croatia -- Azerbaijan hopes that bidding to host 2020 European Championship matches will promote Baku after it was twice rejected by the IOC as a candidate city for the Olympics.
UEFA will confirm Friday that Azerbaijan is among about 30 member countries applying for Euro 2020 matches.
Elkhan Mammadov, the Azerbaijan Football Association secretary general, told The Associated Press that a successful Euro 2020 bid could build momentum for a third shot at a chance to host the Summer Olympic Games.
"I believe yes," Mammadov said in an interview on the sidelines of a four-day UEFA gathering. "It will bring some guarantees. It will destroy some doubts in some people."
UEFA will choose 13 host cities next September. One will host the final and semifinals, and the other 12 will each stage three group matches and one knockout match at the 24-team tournament.
Azerbaijan is proposing the 68,000-capacity Baku Olympic Stadium, which will be completed ahead of hosting events at the first European Games in 2015.
The stadium was the intended centre of the 2016 and 2020 Olympics but Baku failed to reach the IOC's candidates shortlist.
Azerbaijan state president Ilham Aliyev has already signed off full government support for the Euro 2020 project, Mammadov said.
Aliyev also leads his nation's Olympic committee and is expected to propose Baku for hosting the 2024 Summer Games.
"These kinds of events are breeding more trust," said Mammadov, who helped organize the women's Under-17 World Cup for FIFA last year.
For the FIFA event, Azerbaijan brought Jennifer Lopez to headline the opening ceremony concert and Shakira performed at the final.
The success of Azerbaijan's Euro 2020 bid could depend on having a nearby partner country to co-host one of the six groups. Neighboring Turkey is bidding only for the final match package.
UEFA President Michel Platini has pledged to limit travel time for fans attending the tournament.
"We have to see in which regional zone we are. We have to see what will be the priority," Mammadov said.
The Azerbaijan official said he expected fans to come to Baku from neighbouring UEFA countries Russia, Georgia, Turkey and Kazakhstan, plus Iran and Turkmenistan from Asia.
"It was a very good decision by the UEFA president to bring football to the fans and not the fans to football," Mammadov said.