Konul Nurullayeva- CEO, Baku 2020 Share PDF Print E-mail
Profile of the week
Konul Nurullayeva is the CEO of the Baku 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Bid and Head of the International Relations department of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan. She has recently been appointed Deputy Chef de Mission for London 2012. She also heads the International Relations department of the Azerbaijan Athletic Federation
Nurullayeva was the first-ever woman Chef de Mission of the Azerbaijani delegation at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and member of the Azerbaijani delegations for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games.
Azad Rahimov serves as the Minister of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan and is on the Board of the Baku 2020 Bid Committee. Following a successful career in business, Rahimov was appointed as a government minister, when the Ministry of Youth and Sports was established as a separate ministry.
By Marc Sibbons
How did you progress into your position as CEO/Minister of Youth & Sport of the Baku 2020 bid?
KN: I started nearly seven years ago at the NOC in the Department of International Relations/Publications and Information. Then after two years I started my position at the NOC as the Head of International Relations Department. Lastly I was appointed as the CEO of the Baku 2020 bid in November last year.
Furthermore, I was also Chef de Mission for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. During these years, I was lucky enough to be a participant of several international sport & non-sport based conferences, meetings and congress events.
AR: I spent the early part of my career working in business, before coming to politics. My degree was in English from the Azerbaijan University of Languages but I was interested in politics at a young age, and so back in the 1990s, I was the chairman of the Committee of the Youth Organisations of Azerbaijan.
After graduating, I served in the Soviet Army and was stationed in Moscow. In 1989, I was appointed chairman of the Azerbaijan Youth Organization Committee and then a few years later I was appointed Executive Director of the Ros-IMESKO company. From 1998 until 2006, I was Executive Director of Italdesign company.
With the re-establishment of the Minister of Youth and Sports as a separate ministry from the ministry of Culture and Tourism, I was extremely honoured to be invited by our President, Ilham Aliyev, to become the new minister for Youth and Sport. I am so very proud of the huge development that my country has made since independence 21 years ago and so I was delighted to be asked to become involved in helping to continue this transformation.
What is your greatest Olympic memory?
KN: It would have to be Vancouver. When I was handed the role of Chef de Mission I was still very young and it was a totally new experience for me, and I hope to have plenty more opportunities in this type of role. Although I was part of the delegation at the summer Olympics in Beijing, the Vancouver project was a very memorable experience and something I will never forget.
On the 1st September 2011, Baku officially submitted a bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. What was the initial reaction from the public in Azerbaijan?
KN: The reaction was very positive indeed. Statistically, the survey we conducted as field research found that 95% of our citizens supported the bid and welcomed the idea of an Olympic Games in Baku. Also, 50% of the respondents stated they were ready to buy tickets for opening and closing ceremony events. And lastly, 30% said they were ready to work as volunteers in the bidding committee for the Olympic Games. This unprecedented level of public support in Baku gave us a huge motivation to proceed with the bid and we haven’t looked back since!
From this survey, we started a signature campaign two weeks ago and have recently received results from this. We learnt that so far we have obtained 400,000 signatures in those two weeks, which is an incredible achievement, and the campaign is still on going!
What were your initial short term/long term goals for the bid?
KN: First of all, we have a video conference next week, which is basically the first issue standing. Following that, we have the Moscow presentation that is of huge importance to the bidding committee and to our country. Whilst these short-term plans are taking affect, we still have the signature campaign and several other projects to monitor so it’s a very busy time for the bid. Our long-term goal is to establish Baku on the world map and create a diverse new sporting legacy for Azerbaijan that people will remember for many years to come. We are already achieving this through positive media exposure during the bidding process so we are very happy with our progress in this sector.
How has youth sports development in Azerbaijan progressed in the past 12 years? What are the short/long term plans?
AR: In Azerbaijan, the government has invested and continues to invest billions of dollars into creating a world-class sporting infrastructure. Every new facility or venue is built according to solid environment and energy efficient standards, with environmental assessment tools which are part of our national legislation.
The Baku 2020 Bid is a key part of Azerbaijan’s Presidential Vision 2020 - a bold but achievable plan which is already underway to completely upgrade parts of the country’s infrastructure and service sectors to 21st century standards. However, what is most important to us is that we ensure our 2020 Games plan is integrated into Baku’s long-term objectives - not that we change our city to adjust to the 2020 Games. This is a subtle but profound key difference in the Baku 2020 plan, and one that we believe can be a model going forward to illustrate that the Olympic Games are a prudent investment if planned wisely. Currently, we have planned Government investment in excess of USD 500 million over the next three years, irrespective of the 2020 Host city decision.
Planned new sports facilities include the Olympic Stadium, the National Aquatics Centre and the National Gymnastics Centre. These will all be operational by 2015 and will contribute significantly to sports development for women and young people, for the growth of team sports and to Baku’s major event strategy. Azerbaijan is a very young country. We have learnt that 50% of our population is under the age of 30 and 66% of the population is aged under 35 so it is understandable that engaging the youth sector is a specific priority of our plans.
Are you satisfied with the youth facilities in place or is there room for improvement?
AR: At a grassroots level, over the past decade, we have built more than 30 Olympic Complexes around the country – which offer our young people facilities free of charge to take part in a wide range of Olympic sports. We are about to complete another 10 such complexes. Thanks to these complexes, which are extremely popular among our young population, I am very confident that Azerbaijan will become a strong sporting nation, at both elite and grassroots levels.
Since our independence in 1991, our medal tally at the Olympic Games has risen steadily, in particular in the sports where we have traditionally excelled. However, my aim is to start to introduce new sports into Azerbaijan, in particular team sports. One example of a new sport starting in the country is the opening of the new ski and winter sports complex at Shahdag, set in the beautiful Caspian mountains north of the country. One day soon, I am sure, we will have a strong Winter Olympic team.
What impact will Baku winning the right to host the 2016 UEFA European Under-17 Championship have on your bid’s chances?
AR: Winning the right to stage the UEFA U-17 Championship will no doubt have a positive impact on our chances to be awarded the honour to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. It will demonstrate that Azerbaijan, and Baku specifically, is increasing its profile and credentials as a sporting event destination.
We see the hosting of the U-17 Championship as a rehearsal for the Games in 2020. It will show our commitment to inspire and empower young sportsmen and women and so enable our country to realise its true sporting potential.  The UEFA European U-17 Championship will bring many young people from different countries to Azerbaijan. It is a fantastic opportunity for them to discover what Azerbaijan and Baku really have to offer, and I am sure that they will become enthusiastic supporters of bringing the Olympic Games to Azerbaijan for the first time in 2020.
We are certain that hosting the UEFA European Under-17 Championship and its preparations will become a good reference that showcases our potential and capabilities to host the 2020 Games and it will definitely boost our Bid’s chances.
Considering Baku lost out to Rio de Janeiro in hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics, How do you plan to overcome possible weaknesses in your bid for 2020?
KN: Compared to our bid for the 2016 Olympics, we are now in a much stronger position this time round. Our plans are more compact and our focus has been heightened due to our failure to succeed in the 2008 bidding process. We certainly learned a lot during that process and we were determined to come back stronger and wiser than ever before. During those 4 years, we have improved our sporting strategy by improving environmental issues, medical services, and transport + infrastructure.
The transport + infrastructure sector for example has been greatly enhanced with our 30 year long-term development plan. This will honour our hosting of the 2020 Olympic Games and consist of a detailed metric expansion plan dedicated towards the event in eight years time.
The environmental projects involved a state programme in 2006 and 2010, which consisted of a remediation process-taking place in under valued areas of Baku. We considered this to be a slight weakness in our 2016 bid, but we hope by the end of 2014, we will be able to finalise all of the remediation programmes and further strengthen are chances. Our main priority was to build a more sustainable business module that the IOC would feel more attracted to, as we felt this is the most important aspect of any bid.
What is Baku’s story behind the bid? Is this an important factor in persuading the IOC to award the Games to your City?
KN: We believe that the success of our bid would be life changing; it would completely transform our city. Together with the Olympic movement, we could inspire millions of people in not only Azerbaijan, but also the continent of Asia. Furthermore, we would have the chance to empower millions of young sports men/women in the country and region. We also believe that together we can spread the values of Olympism to a region of the world that will benefit enormously from these values, putting sport and its importance at the forefront of our society.
In my view, an engaging, powerful story is essential towards culminating a successful Olympic bid, and we are very confident that our work in this sector will be enough to see us through. I believe we have every chance of securing a historic moment for our country, so I am eagerly awaiting the IOC’s decision to name the candidate cities in May this year.
Do you think the IOC now considers the geographical element a priority when deciding which cities host the Olympic Games?
KN: The IOC obviously considers many different elements into where the Olympic Games will go so it’s difficult to say. Whilst they clearly deliberate the location of the city, the IOC also look into a bid’s political issues, economical levels and potential legacy before making their decision. As we have never hosted a sporting event of this size, we will be hoping the geographical element will be work in our favour, but we will have to wait patiently and hope for the best.
How much of a coup would a successful bid mean to the people of Baku? What is unique about the city?
Well if 95% of our inhabitants are supporting the Olympic bid it shows there is a tremendous support from the public, which is hugely important to us. Everyone wants to be part of this unique project, and there is a great optimism on the streets of Baku. The facts show that the local people are fully behind our work, and this motivation to succeed rubs off on everyone involved in the bid. Although we are a small city, we are very keen to educate the world about our culture, environment and sporting potential. I simply cannot put it into words how much this project means to us.
How much will the Olympics impact your city in terms of finance? Does Baku/Azerbaijan hold a good position in the global economic market?
KN: Regarding the financial aspect of our bid, I can report that we are very stable as we enjoy a robust economy. Our GDP growth was ranked number one in the world at 900% just a few years ago before the global crisis resulted in a slight decline. Now it is around the 104bn US Dollars mark for the Olympic Games which is a crazy statistic, so I’m very comfortable with our position in this sector.
What do you believe are the most commonly made mistakes by bidding nations/cities?
KN: I think it all depends on the country/city that is bidding for an Olympics. Experience is a crucial factor in being successful in this process. For example, our bid for the 2016 Games was a very new experience for us. We know that we had many weaknesses with our bid, and we leaned a lot from the IOC’s report, which has ultimately held us in good stead for future bidding. Although we worked very hard for the 2016 bid, we were naïve and lacked the professionalism we have on board this time round. We can now fully focus on the 2020 Olympic Games where there is still plenty of work to do, but I remain very confident in our chances. I’m convinced the Olympics are coming to Baku in eight years.
Is it vital that a bidding city already has the infrastructure in place, or does it act as an extra incentive to build an Olympic legacy with extensive building schemes? What infrastructure do you currently have in place?
KN: Starting from 2000, we have a strategy for Olympic sports complexes where we have already built 34 top of the range stadia venues for this sector. At the same time, we planned to build an Olympic stadium even though we weren’t sure of mounting a successful bid. We also had plans to build an aquatic center, a boxing center and a national gymnastics center. For the Olympic bid, we had to consider temporary, permanent and existing infrastructure in order to preserve a successful Olympic legacy for our city. Depending on the IOC’s decision to name the candidate cities in May, we will evaluate our plans and ensure we don’t have any ‘white elephants’ holding us back.
We at iSportconnect have many members on the site involved in sports bidding consultancy. How important is it for your Olympic Committee to effectively collaborate with these experts during the bidding process?
KN: It is very important. These companies are very helpful in the planning, implementation and development of a bid and have a huge say in delivering a good result for your bid. We obviously had a very talented group of local experts involved in our bid committee who have supported us from the very start of our adventure, and we fully acknowledge the hard work they have put into our campaign. Communication is key as understanding the team you work with can have a huge say in how a bid will turn out. If everyone knows their specific role, morale/motivation is high and we can fully concentrate on the challenges that are presented to uKonul Nurullayeva is the CEO of the Baku 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Bid and Head of the International Relations department of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan. She has recently been appointed Deputy Chef de Mission for London 2012. She also heads the International Relations department of the Azerbaijan Athletic Federation 

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Konul Nurullayeva is the CEO of the Baku 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Bid and Head of the International Relations department of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan. She has recently been appointed Deputy Chef de Mission for London 2012. She also heads the International Relations department of the Azerbaijan Athletic Federation 

Nurullayeva was the first-ever woman Chef de Mission of the Azerbaijani delegation at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and member of the Azerbaijani delegations for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games.

Azad Rahimov serves as the Minister of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan and is on the Board of the Baku 2020 Bid Committee. Following a successful career in business, Rahimov was appointed as a government minister, when the Ministry of Youth and Sports was established as a separate ministry.

By Marc Sibbons

How did you progress into your position as CEO/Minister of Youth & Sport of the Baku 2020 bid? 

KN: I started nearly seven years ago at the NOC in the Department of International Relations/Publications and Information. Then after two years I started my position at the NOC as the Head of International Relations Department. Lastly I was appointed as the CEO of the Baku 2020 bid in November last year. 

Furthermore, I was also Chef de Mission for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. During these years, I was lucky enough to be a participant of several international sport & non-sport based conferences, meetings and congress events. 
 

AR: I spent the early part of my career working in business, before coming to politics. My degree was in English from the Azerbaijan University of Languages but I was interested in politics at a young age, and so back in the 1990s, I was the chairman of the Committee of the Youth Organisations of Azerbaijan. After graduating, I served in the Soviet Army and was stationed in Moscow. In 1989, I was appointed chairman of the Azerbaijan Youth Organization Committee and then a few years later I was appointed Executive Director of the Ros-IMESKO company. From 1998 until 2006, I was Executive Director of Italdesign company. With the re-establishment of the Minister of Youth and Sports as a separate ministry from the ministry of Culture and Tourism, I was extremely honoured to be invited by our President, Ilham Aliyev, to become the new minister for Youth and Sport. I am so very proud of the huge development that my country has made since independence 21 years ago and so I was delighted to be asked to become involved in helping to continue this transformation.


What is your greatest Olympic memory? 

KN: It would have to be Vancouver. When I was handed the role of Chef de Mission I was still very young so it was a very new experience for me, and I hope to have plenty more opportunities in this type of role in the future. Although I was part of the delegation at the summer Olympics in Beijing, the Vancouver project was a very memorable experience and something I will never forget. 
 

On the 1st September 2011, Baku officially submitted a bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. What was the initial reaction from the public in Azerbaijan? 

KN: The reaction was very positive indeed. Statistically, the survey we conducted as field research found that 95% of our citizens supported the bid and welcomed the idea of an Olympic Games in Baku. Also, 50% of the respondents stated they were ready to buy tickets for opening and closing ceremony events. And lastly, 30% said they were ready to work as volunteers in the bidding committee for the Olympic Games. This unprecedented level of public support in Baku gave us a huge motivation to proceed with the bid and we haven’t looked back since! 

From this survey, we started a signature campaign two weeks ago and have recently received results from this. We learnt that so far we have obtained 400,000 signatures in those two weeks, which is an incredible achievement, and the campaign is still on going!   
 

What were your initial short term/long term goals for the bid? 
 

KN: First of all, we have a video conference next week, which is basically the first issue standing. Following that, we have the Moscow presentation that is of huge importance to the bidding committee and to our country. Whilst these short-term plans are taking affect, we still have the signature campaign and several other projects to monitor so it’s a very busy time for the bid. Our long-term goal is to establish Baku on the world map and create a diverse new sporting legacy for Azerbaijan that people will remember for many years to come. We are already achieving this through positive media exposure during the bidding process so we are very happy with our progress in this sector. 

 

How has youth sports development in Azerbaijan progressed in the past 12 years? What are the short/long term plans? 

 AR: In Azerbaijan, the government has invested and continues to invest billions of dollars into creating a world-class sporting infrastructure. Every new facility or venue is built according to solid environment and energy efficient standards, with environmental assessment tools which are part of our national legislation. The Baku 2020 Bid is a key part of Azerbaijan’s Presidential Vision 2020 - a bold but achievable plan which is already underway to completely upgrade parts of the country’s infrastructure and service sectors to 21st century standards. However, what is most important to us is that we ensure our 2020 Games plan is integrated into Baku’s long-term objectives - not that we change our city to adjust to the 2020 Games. This is a subtle but profound key difference in the Baku 2020 plan, and one that we believe can be a model going forward to illustrate that the Olympic Games are a prudent investment if planned wisely. Currently, we have planned Government investment in excess of USD 500 million over the next three years, irrespective of the 2020 Host city decision. Planned new sports facilities include the Olympic Stadium, the National Aquatics Centre and the National Gymnastics Centre. These will all be operational by 2015 and will contribute significantly to sports development for women and young people, for the growth of team sports and to Baku’s major event strategy. Azerbaijan is a very young country. We have learnt that 50% of our population is under the age of 30 and 66% of the population is aged under 35 so it is understandable that engaging the youth sector is a specific priority of our plans. 

Are you satisfied with the youth facilities in place or is there room for improvement?
 

 AR: At a grassroots level, over the past decade, we have built more than 30 Olympic Complexes around the country – which offer our young people facilities free of charge to take part in a wide range of Olympic sports. We are about to complete another 10 such complexes. Thanks to these complexes, which are extremely popular among our young population, I am very confident that Azerbaijan will become a strong sporting nation, at both elite and grassroots levels. Since our independence in 1991, our medal tally at the Olympic Games has risen steadily, in particular in the sports where we have traditionally excelled. However, my aim is to start to introduce new sports into Azerbaijan, in particular team sports. One example of a new sport starting in the country is the opening of the new ski and winter sports complex at Shahdag, set in the beautiful Caspian mountains north of the country. One day soon, I am sure, we will have a strong Winter Olympic team. 

What impact will Baku winning the right to host the 2016 UEFA European Under-17 Championship have on your bid’s chances?

 AR: Winning the right to stage the UEFA U-17 Championship will no doubt have a positive impact on our chances to be awarded the honour to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. It will demonstrate that Azerbaijan, and Baku specifically, is increasing its profile and credentials as a sporting event destination. We see the hosting of the U-17 Championship as a rehearsal for the Games in 2020. It will show our commitment to inspire and empower young sportsmen and women and so enable our country to realise its true sporting potential.  The UEFA European U-17 Championship will bring many young people from different countries to Azerbaijan. It is a fantastic opportunity for them to discover what Azerbaijan and Baku really have to offer, and I am sure that they will become enthusiastic supporters of bringing the Olympic Games to Azerbaijan for the first time in 2020.    We are certain that hosting the UEFA European Under-17 Championship and its preparations will become a good reference that showcases our potential and capabilities to host the 2020 Games and it will definitely boost our Bid’s chances.

 

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