December 21 - Baku today officiallly launched its bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics here, including revealing a logo inspired by carpets, arguably Azerbaijan's most famous export.
The city is considered the outsider in the race which pitches it against Doha, Istanbul, Madrid, Rome and Tokyo but there was plenty of optimism at the event today attended by Chingiz Huseynzade, the vice-president of the bid and of the National Olympic Committee, where as well as the logo he unveiled the campaign's slogan, "Together We Can".
Huseynzade admitted that the country sees the Olympics as an opportunity to fast-track itself up the world order less than 30 years after it regained its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
With its economy one of the fastest growing in the world thanks to the fact that two-thirds of the country is rich in oil and natural gas, Azerbaijan can claim to be financially stronger than Spain and Italy, whose bids are both threatening to be undermined by their countries economic crisis.
"In the 20 years since our country's independence, we have come a very long way as a nation," said Huseynzade.
"If we realise our dream of hosting the Games in 2020, with the Olympic Movement at our side, I believe that together we can take the next great leap forward in our country's development.
"Together we can reinforce and continue the positive social and economic changes that have already taken place in Baku and Azerbaijan over the past two decades and help Baku to become a leading global destination far sooner than it would without the Games.
"Together we can also accelerate the development of team sports and introduce new sports into the country that will benefit the young and old, men and women of Azerbaijan.
"And finally, together we can enable our country to fulfil its true sporting potential, giving an enormous boost to the development and diversification of sport and society in Azerbaijan.
"These are truly nation-building values.
"And if we are chosen as the 2020 Host City, together we can extend these Olympic ideals and inspire millions of new hearts and minds in Azerbaijan.
"Hosting the 2020 Games will be 'life-changing' for Baku and the country."
Huseynzade is hoping that Baku can continue the trend of emerging territories winning bids to host major events.
There is also an historical precedent that Baku can draw inspiration from.
Their failed to make the shortlist for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.
The same thing had happened to Rio de Janeiro for 2012 only for them to bounce back to win 2016.
"Hosting the Olympic Games in Baku would also open up new and exciting new markets for the International Olympic Committee and introduce the wonderful and important values of Olympism to regions of the world that are new to the Olympic Movement," said Huseynzade.
Huseynzade was supported at the event by Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan's Minister of Youth and Sport, and a group of the country's Olympics medallists.
They included Zemfira Meftaheddinova, the Olympic women's skeet champion at Sydney 2000; Elnur Mammadli, the Beijing 2008 73kg judo gold medallist; and Ilham Zakiyev, who won a gold medal at judo in the Beijing Paralympics.
The unveiling of the Bid's logo, slogan and website was followed by a spectacular flash-mob performed by more than 500 Baku youngsters.
The logo is a colourful representation of a carpet, the weave itself also subtly spells out Baku's "dream date" of 2020, officials claimed.
Carpet making in Azebaijin dates back to the fifth century BC and the Azerbaijani carpet was last year proclaimed a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage by UNESCO.
"We are extremely proud of our Bid logo, which is inspired by Azerbaijan's world-famous carpets and in particular by how each individual thread is woven together with others to create something amazing, delightful, surprising and beautiful," said Konul Nurullayeva, the chief executive of Baku 2020.
"The idea of intertwined and mutually empowering relationships are the very heart of Azeri history and culture.
"The logo is therefore full of Azeri meaning and provenance.
"It is not mere decoration, it is a graphical articulation of the bid's slogan, 'Together we can'."
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