By Tom Degun in Baku

Aghajan_Abiyev_26-09-11September 26 - Aghajan Abiyev (pictured left), the secretary general of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan (NOCA), claims that holding the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Baku would help Azerbaijan continue to develop as a country after they gained independence 20 years ago.

Baku revealed earlier this month they submitted a bid to host the 2020 Games as the oil-rich city continues to show they are an emerging power.

Baku has hosted a series of international gymnastics events - including the 2005 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, while the city is currently staging the 2011 International Boxing Association (AIBA) World Championships here at the Heydar Aliyev Sport Concert Complex.

But Abiyev, who is playing a leading role in the 2020 bid, believes that hosting the Games would illustrate just how far Azerbaijan has come since they gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

"We are very hopeful we can bring the Olympic Games to Baku in 2020," the NOCA secretary general told insidethegames.

"We also think we would help the Olympic Movement by staging them here.

"Azerbaijan is a small country and only recently did we get our independence.

"This marked the start of our developments in the city and Azerbaijan has gradually developed as a country since then.

"We are building all the time, day-by-day.

"But our President Ilham Aliyev [who is also head of the NOCA] cares about the fact that there are still some difficult living conditions for people in Azerbaijan.

"He feels that hosting the Olympics will be a great benefit for them and will help the country continue in its development.

"The Olympics should be not only about great sporting competition but also about helping the area where they are staged and about creating a lasting sporting legacy."

Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Yagub Eyubov will head the Baku 2020 bid as the city battles against Doha, Istanbul, Madrid, Rome and Tokyo.

Abiyev feels the competition is tough but that Baku are capable of hosting the event despite the fact that they failed to make the shortlist when they bid for the 2016 Games, which were eventually awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

"The AIBA 2011 World Championships being held here will help us bring the event to the country as it will show the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that big Olympic sports want to come here," he said.

"If the IOC allows our bid for the 2020 Olympics to move forward to the shortlist, we think that Baku and Azerbaijan is very much ready to host the competition.

"There are already over 30 major sporting complexes in Azerbaijan and while development will be needed in some areas, some venues would be ready to host Olympic competition tomorrow."

Abiyev was keen to point out that the country is currently building the Baku Olympic Stadium (pictured), which is a retractable roof stadium that is set to be opened in 2015.

The stadium will have a capacity of 65,000 and will fulfil FIFA's and UEFA's highest technical recommendations and elite stadium obligations.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini joined the Azerbaijan President at the ceremony in June that saw construction get underway and Abiyev said that it highlighted the country's ambitions.

"Our Olympic Stadium is a great stadium that would be fantastic for the Olympics," he said.

"It is a good illustration of what we could do for the Olympics.

"We also have experience outside of sporting competition as we recently won the right to stage the Eurovision song contest and we are preparing to host the best one ever.

"This shows that we are building experience in hosting a variety of major events and that we can host the Olympics."

Abiyev added that there are problems with traffic in the city but that some solutions for solving the problem at an Olympics have already been identified.

"We do have problems with the traffic in central Baku so our plan is to build a lot of our new Olympic venues in the countryside," he said.

"But we still have a lot of time to get everything prepared for a potential Olympics Games."

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