Oil crisis cuts Games budget

GMT 03:05 2015 Thursday ,05 March

Arab Today, arab today Oil crisis cuts Games budget

National Stadium in Baku
Baku - AFP

Azerbaijan has had to make a "modest" cut to the nearly one billion euros ($1.1 billion) operating budget to run the first European Games which start in 100 days, a top organizer said Wednesday.
The fall in the price of oil, which the country's economy relies upon, has led to a 34 percent fall in Azerbaijan's currency, the manat, as it prepares for the invasion of 6,000 athletes for the 16-day event which starts on June 12.
"We had a certain degree of rationalisation in our expenses, but it had only a modest effect on the budget reduction," Games chief operating officer Simon Clegg said, giving an operating budget of about 975 million euros.
Workers are still putting the finishing touches to the 66,000 seater national stadium, a near replica of Bayern Munich's stadium.
There is still no turf on the ground in the stadium which will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletics.
"We still have significant work to do, but I am very confident," said Clegg, who played a pivotal role in London winning the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
And he insisted that the economic battering had not diminished Azerbaijan's determination to stage a memorable Games.
Of the 18 sites where 20 sports -- including six non-Olympic sports -- will be held, five stadiums were specially built for the Games which were awarded to Azerbaijan in 2012.
The government has been praised for its response in taking up the challenge with so little time to prepare.
The European Olympic Committee (EOC) wants the Games to become a showcase event and there are already three cities shortlisted to hold the next Games in 2012.
The EOC has been underfire in some quarters for choosing a country with a much-criticised human rights record.
President Ilham Aliyev, 53, has been accused by rights groups of stepping up a campaign to stifle dissent since his election for a third term in 2013.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Wednesday condemned the persecution of dissidents in Azerbaijan with the Games approaching.
And Azerbaijan is set to occupy a lot of the sporting spotlight.
It will hold a Formula One Grand Prix in 2016 -- formerly the European Grand Prix and to be renamed the Baku Grand Prix -- and three matches in the European Championships football finals in 2020, including a quarter final.
Reports say Azerbaijan could announce its intention this year to host the 2024 Olympic Games after two failed candidacies for the 2016 and 2020 editions.
Azerbaijan sports officials are not commenting but Clegg said Aliyev understood the impact sport has globally.
"Azerbaijan has a president who understands sport and how sport can be used to reach political objectives," said Clegg.
Recent clashes between Azeri and Armenian forces over the breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region have also caused some concerns in European nations.
But Clegg said the test of a successful Games will be whether "the 6,000 athletes leave the country happy."
The 55-year-old Englishman predicted, however, that "the world will see Azerbaijan can organise incredibly successful events."


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