April 22 - Half-a-million people in Azerbaijan have signed up to a petition supporting Baku's Bid to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it has been announced.
The petition was launched a month ago when the country's President, Ilham Aliyev, and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva were among the first people to sign it.
The initiative, carried out by hundreds of young volunteers from the Union of Student Organisations, is designed to show how much the Azerbaijani capital wants to host the Games.
"I feel so moved and proud of the level of support we have been given from our fellow citizens all over the country – in particular from this fantastic group of young volunteers, who have been out in all weather collecting signatures," said Konul Nurullayeva, the chief executive of Baku 2020.
"Everywhere I go in Baku, people call out to wish us well in our Bid.
"And now Azerbaijanis have been able to show their huge support for us in a physical and tangible way.
"In Azerbaijan, we are absolutely passionate for sport.
"It would be life-changing for us to host the world's greatest sporting event.
"But as we told the delegates in ANOC (Association of National Olympic Committees) last weekend, our Bid is not just about what hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games can do for Baku.
"Our slogan, 'Together we can', is also about creating a partnership with the Olympic Movement."
Like rivals Doha, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo, Baku faces an anxious wait until the International Olympic Committee's ruling Executive Board meets in Quebec City on May 23 to decide whether they should be put on the shortlist and given Candidate City status.
"Our Applicant File offers the Movement a new Games model based on true need; this means building only sustainable venues designed to remain in place, serving local and regional athletes for generations," said Nurullayeva (pictured above right).
"Where there is no genuine long-term demand for major venues, we will use temporary or multi-purpose facilities,"
"We want to prove that an Olympic Games is not only a sound investment in our nation's sport, health and quality of life, but that it can be hosted in a responsible manner which, in turn, provides a sustainable Games hosting model for the future.
"Baku has an ideal climate for sport; our city and country also offer a beautiful setting and an amazing history.
"And perhaps importantly in these challenging financial times, we have one of the strongest, fastest growing economies in the world.
"Our model can show future potential Host Cities around the world that the Olympic Games are achievable, responsible investments for the future, illustrating how Olympism can be an incredible catalyst for transforming a society and its environment.
"With half a million people participating in our signature campaign, this shows how far the process of transforming the country is already happening – and how passionate and enthusiastic we all are for this transformation."
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