Azerbaijan Sports Minister highlights hurdles for possible 2024 Olympics bid

Azerbaijan’s Sports Minister, Azad Rahimov, has said that the country could bid for the 2024 summer Olympic Games, but has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reduce its requirements for hosting the sporting spectacle.

Azerbaijan was involved in the bidding process for the 2016 and 2020 Games, with a bid featuring its capital of Baku failing to make the shortlist of finalists on both occasions. IOC officials recorded poor ratings for infrastructure during visits to the city.

However, the process was carried out prior to Baku’s hosting of the inaugural European Games, which is currently taking place in the Azeri capital. Azerbaijan’s successful staging of the new multi-sport event has led to reports of the country returning to the bidding process for the next edition of the summer Olympics to become available.

Despite refusing to rule out submitting a bid for the 2024 Games, Rahimov said the IOC should lower its requirements for potential host nations of the Olympics. The Minister stated that should Azerbaijan bid to stage the Games, it would be hampered by requirements related to infrastructure and venue size.

“At the moment, the requirements for the Olympics are very high,” Rahimov said, according to the Associated Press news agency, stating that it would be “impossible” for Azerbaijan to host the Olympics at European Games venues without the need for “huge investment” from the government.

He added: “The Baku stadium is 68,000 seats but, the IOC requires 80,000 seats for opening and closing ceremonies.”

Rahimov’s comments come despite the introduction of Agenda 2020, which has been put forward by the IOC in an effort to help increase interest in staging the Games. The IOC has also unveiled a new ‘invitation phase’ for potential bid cities to discuss their plans with the organisation.

However, Rahimov said that he is still unclear as to what the new reforms would mean in practice and whether they would actually help Azerbaijan with a bid. “If these demands and requirements will be somehow finalised in a realistic approach, it will be more easy for a country like Azerbaijan to bid for the Games,” Rahimov added.

Meanwhile, Rahimov has confirmed that the Azerbaijan government would be interested in backing a team in the Formula One motor racing championship.

Despite having almost no history of participating in motor sport, the country will next year stage its first F1 grand prix on a street circuit in Baku. Rahimov said the government would be “very interested” in sponsoring a team run under the Azeri flag or an existing outfit through Azerbaijani sponsorship.

Despite stating that the idea is not government policy and would depend on the commitment of businesses, Rahimov said the government would “totally support” any private investment.