Tofig Bahramov Stadium Baku's Plan B for Eurovision

Tue 13 Dec 2011 10:09 GMT | 14:09 Local Time

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Youth and Sport Minister Azad Rahimov has confirmed that Azerbaijan's main football stadium will be the fall-back venue for Eurovision.

Major refurbishment of the Tofig Bahramov Republican Stadium is to be completed on 15 March 2012, the minister told journalists on Tuesday, Gun.Az reported.

“It is a big achievement to modernize the Stalin-era stadium. The Eurovision contest will last two weeks, but the stadium will remain in Azerbaijan for a long time," Rahimov said, according to APA.

He acknowledged that the Crystal Palace, previously referred to as the Crystal Hall, is his preferred Eurovision location but stopped short of naming it the official venue.

"The Crystal Palace is under construction and I hope it will be ready by the contest and surprise the European community,” he said.

The glass and steel structure is being built at Flag Square at the Bail end of Baku bay.

"It wouldn’t be right to welcome European guests to the Concert and Sports Complex, which was built a long time ago and doesn’t meet modern standards,” the minister continued, referring to another potential venue for the contest.

The main objective is to hold the Eurovision contest at a high level and promote Azerbaijan worldwide, he said.

Azad Rahimov described as "untrue" and "exaggerated" reports that AZN 2bn ($2.5bn) will be spent on the Eurovision Song Contest.

Special buses

Fifty special shuttle buses have been brought in ready for Eurovision, the minister told journalists.

The buses will have English-speaking drivers.

"The drivers have to speak English, but unfortunately there are few English-speaking drivers in Azerbaijan. Although the Eurovision preparations are going well," he said.

SMS news service

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has started work to improve telecoms ahead of the contest.

One of the improvements is the introduction of a news service via SMS for foreign visitors who have a roaming account with their mobile service provider, the website ICTnews reported.

The news service will include news about the song contest, practical information for tourists and so on.

Palace of Happiness

The youth and sport minister told journalists that refurbishment of the Palace of Happiness, so-called because it used to be a registry office for weddings, will be completed by 15 January 2012.

The minister said that a whopping AZN 35-36 million has been spent on the three-year refurbishment.

"When VAT is taken out of this sum, expenditure on refurbishment is AZN 28 million. The work has taken three years. It should be added that the foundations of the Palace of Happiness have also been reinforced," Rahimov said.

The neo-Gothic building was built in 1912 by oil baron Murtuza Mukhtarov.

Cycling race-track

The minister said that construction of a new cycling race-track is a possibility, Gun Az reported.

He said that the ministry had not given away the existing track near the 20 January metro station, but added that the market around the race-track has nothing to do with the ministry.

"It's very crowded there. There are lots of buildings and people, so it's difficult to ride a bike. A new cycling track may be built somewhere and the current track returned to the State Property Committee."




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