Azerbaijan to join 2016 bidding

MASALLI, Azerbaijan (Combined reports) – The Azerbaijani capital of Baku, flush with oil revenues, will bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, President Ilham Aliyev said yesterday. «We have put forward a bid to host the Olympic Games in 2016,» Aliyev said during the opening of a sports complex in the town of Masalli, 200 kilometers south of Baku, attended by European Olympic Committee President Patrick Hickey. «We are the first country of the former Soviet Union, other than Russia, that has made such a request to the International Olympic Committee,» Aliyev said. Russia is bidding to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in the southern city of Sochi. Solid growth Azerbaijan’s economy is among the fastest growing in the world, thanks to its significant energy reserves and position as a transportation hub for Caspian Sea oil. «A few years ago, we would not have thought of this, but today the country’s sports potential and the growing economic might of Azerbaijan allows us to do so,» said Aliyev. But despite a major building boom in Baku, much of the capital’s infrastructure is crumbling, and raging inflation has prevented many ordinary people from sharing in the energy boom. Aliyev said that Azerbaijan has built 11 Olympic-grade sports facilities since 2000 and is building or planning 14 more. Azerbaijan took one gold medal in wrestling and four bronze in boxing and shooting at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Bid cities have until September 15 to submit a letter of interest to the IOC, which will announce the host city in 2009. Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and the Czech capital Prague have already announced plans to bid for the 2016 Games. Other cities expected in the race include Madrid, Rome, and Doha, Qatar. The US Olympic Committee is deciding between Los Angeles and Chicago as its 2016 candidate. Beijing tours Meanwhile, in Beijing, organizers of the 2008 Olympics yesterday offered free tours of the Chinese capital in August to 10 families who attract the most votes in a worldwide Olympic Internet competition. Families, five from China and five from overseas, must have at least three members and register for the competition on the organizing committee website, organizers said at the launch ceremony.The first round sees families join a virtual tour of Olympic venues during which they must play games and answer quiz questions online. The 100 families who survive the virtual tour pass through to the next round in which they are required to set up their own blog, come up with a family Olympic slogan and post pictures and stories. The final 10 families are those who can attract the most votes from visitors to the website. The tours begin on August 8, the one-year countdown to the 2008 games and include tickets to Olympic test events in Beijing and other cities as well as tours to the Great Wall and Beijing’s famous Forbidden City. Cooperation «The competition will encourage more public involvement in the Olympics,» said the organizing committee vice president, Jiang Xiaoyu. «This event will create interaction between Chinese and foreign families and lessen the distance between China and the rest of the world.» (AFP/AP)

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