February 14 - Konul Nurullayeva (pictured right), chief executive of Baku 2020, has claimed the Azerbaijani capital's latest attempt to host the Olympics and Paralympics is far more professional than their previous failed bid for 2016 as she today led the delegation that delivered the cities' Applicant File to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The Applicant City file was delivered here at the IOC headquarters just moments before it was reported that Rome had pulled out of race to host the event to leave just five cities standing.
Baku were the penultimate city to submit their bid with Tokyo and Doha having handed in their Applicant City files in yesterday and Madrid submitting their documents this morning.
Istanbul will submit their Applicant City file tomorrow morning on the day of the deadline and will now be the last city to do so with the Italian capital having abandoned their dream of hosting the competition after the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti took the decision after an evaluation of the costs and benefits involved.
Rome's decision is clearly a boost to Baku, whose Applicant City file was delivered by Nurullayeva along with Azerbaijan's Minister of Youth and Sports Azad Rahimov, the bid's new head of communications Elkhan Mammadov, Azerbaijan's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Murad Najafbayli, Olympian Zemfira Meftaheddinova and Paralympian Ilham Zakiev.
"It is a very important day for Baku and Azerbaijan as we hand in our Applicant City file," Nurullayeva told insidethegames, referring to their unsuccessful campaign for 2016 which did not make the shortlist as the Games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro.
"It is much different from the Applicant City file that was handed in for 2016 and it is very clearly athlete-centred.
"You cannot compare the two because we have advanced so far as a city and as a country and we have learnt a lot from what happened last time.
"Our 2020 Applicant File outlines a Games Plan that will extend the Olympic ideals to millions of new hearts and minds and one that will embrace five continents.
"It says that awarding Baku the honour of hosting the 2020 Games will give people around the world a true picture of Azeri culture, while at the same time bringing a new found sporting confidence to a region that has not had the opportunity to witness firsthand the greatest sporting event on earth."
Rahimov was also confident following the submission of the Applicant City file.
"Baku is one of the world's best-kept secrets," he said.
"Visitors to Baku are always taken by surprise by its beauty and its friendliness and it is the perfect blend of old and new.
"Our Olympic bid is part of a wider process of transforming Baku into a world-class destination, with first-class business, technology and sports facilities, as well as hotels, museums and art collections, universities and all the infrastructure that comes with them.
"With the Olympic Movement, together we can reinforce and continue the positive social, economic and infrastructural changes that have already taken place in Baku and Azerbaijan over the past two decades since independence."
Baku's bid received another boost as they submitted the Applicant City file when messages of support from some of the country's top athletes, including reigning Olympic judo champion in the -73 kg division Elnur Mammadli (pictured), were sent to Nurullayeva and her delegation.
"Having participated in the Olympic Games, I fully support the Baku Bid to bring this unique and incredible celebratory experience to my home country," he said.
"Hosting the Olympic Games to Baku will stimulate the development of new sports in Azerbaijan and will be an inspiration for many other young and ambitious Azeri sportsmen and sportswomen."
Azerbaijan's wrestling Olympic champion Namig Abdullayev added: "Winning the bid to host the 2020 Olympics would be as great as winning an Olympic medal.
"This Bid will raise the profile of Azerbaijan and Baku around the world and will show that there is more to discover here than people might think."
Nurullayeva said the comments were most welcome.
"It is a wonderful privilege to have the support of these elite athletes, all of them heroes in Azerbaijan," she said.
"They all know what it means to compete at the very highest level.
"I am thrilled that they have agreed to be our Bid ambassadors and my highest wish is to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Baku to honour their sporting achievements."
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