Monday, April 21, 2014


Features

Report Alleges Azerbaijan Seeking To Buy Olympic Boxing Gold In 2012

Bright lights, big money: a scene from the boxing competition at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
Bright lights, big money: a scene from the boxing competition at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
TEXT SIZE - +
The international boxing world has been shaken on the eve of a major pre-Olympic competition by a suggestion that Azerbaijan secretly paid millions of dollars in hopes of winning boxing gold at the London 2012 Olympics.

The report, by BBC, came as competitors from all over the world converged on Baku for the first major qualifying event for next summer's games.

Baku is hosting the 2011 World Championships of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), an organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the sport's international governing board. The bouts, which began on September 22 and run through October 10, are part of a series of competitions to winnow out the many boxers who aspire to enter next year's Olympic Games.

Just as the event got under way, a BBC investigative program alleged it had uncovered evidence of a secret payment of $9 million from Azerbaijan to an arm of the AIBA. The allegations, aired on BBC's Newsnight on September 22, raise a host of questions about who in Azerbaijan made the payment and what for.

So many questions, in fact, that IOC President Jacques Rogge on September 23 vowed to look into the report immediately.

"We are asking the BBC to provide us with the evidence because we take everything seriously, but of course we can only take the decision after having seen evidence," Rogge said in Beijing. "So we've asked the BBC to provide us as soon as possible with full evidence and it will be examined by the IOC also."

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev inaugurates the Tovuz Olympic Sports Complex in February 2011.

Fool's Golds?

The BBC says whistle-blowers within the AIBA claimed one of its top-ranking officials, Ivan Khodabakhsh, told them he had done a secret deal to secure funding from Azerbaijan in return for guaranteeing that two of the country's boxers win gold medals in London next year.

Khodabakhsh, the chief operating officer of World Series Boxing (WSB), a key part of the AIBA's tournament structure, immediately rebutted the claims. "I deny that I have offered anyone two gold medals or have any understanding that anybody else has offered two gold medals to Azerbaijan," he said.

Following the show, the AIBA confirmed in a statement that $9 million had been paid to the WSB. It said the money was a loan from an investment company on "a commercial basis and with a view to a commercial return for the investor." It also said the loan went to WSB's U.S. branch, which is in financial difficulty.

The view inside a new sports complex in Masalli, Azerbaijan, that was built as part of the country's 2016 Olympics bid

The name of the investor remains a mystery. The AIBA initially identified it as a Swiss company, but the BBC investigative team said documents it obtained showed Khodabakhsh and AIBA executive director Ho Kim had communicated with Azerbaijan's minister for emergency situations about an investment agreement for a $10 million loan.

"We've obtained e-mails between World Series Boxing and Azerbaijan," investigative reporter Anna Adams says in the program of the team's findings. "In the e-mail it refers to a meeting in Baku with a government minister to discuss funding, and attached is an investment agreement [for] $10 million. And whistle-blowers were told that Azerbaijan had been promised two gold medals in return."

Lawyers for AIBA and WSB later confirmed to the BBC that although the money was paid through a Swiss company, it actually came from Azerbaijan. The lawyers also said that Minister for Emergency Situations Kamaladdin Heydarov introduced a private Azerbaijani investor to the WSB and that the minister and an assistant acted as an interface due to the investor's limited English. The lawyers denied the money was from the Azerbaijani government.

Just Win, Baby

As the AIBA and the BBC investigative team now spar over the details of the allegations, it could be months before enough details emerge to resolve the contradictions. But the story already is casting new attention on Azerbaijan's long-standing fixation on the Olympic Games -- an obsession that permeates the highest levels of government.

Ahead of the last summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008, Azerbaijan was in the news amid charges it was trying to get a field hockey team to the games by fraud. Baku formed its women's field hockey team almost entirely of former Korean athletes hastily married to Azerbaijani husbands and given Azerbaijani passports. The team did not make it to the Olympics but prompted consternation over whether it should be considered an Azerbaijani team or not.

Observers in Baku say the government's intense interest in winning at the Olympics reflects the priorities of President Ilham Aliyev himself.

Aliyev held the position of head of Azerbaijan's Olympic Committee before assuming the presidency upon his father's death. He has since closely integrated top sports positions in the country with top government positions, so that the head of an individual sport federation and of a key ministry are often one-and-the-same trusted advisor.

Familiar Faces

While Aliyev himself remains head of the National Olympic Committee, Tax Minister Fazil Mammadov is president of the Wrestling Federation and Minister of Labor and Social Protection of People Fizulu Alakbarov is president of the Azerbaijan Judo Federation. Similarly, the president of Azerbaijan's state-controlled oil company (SOCAR), Rovnaq Abdullayev, is president of the Football Federations Association; Aliyev's wife, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, is the president of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation.

Such appointments suggest that Aliyev sees Azerbaijani success at international sports events as a path to domestic popularity for his government and to earn it greater international legitimacy. As part of his sports priority, he has funded Olympic centers around the country, including a half-billion-dollar Olympic Stadium in Baku. The expenditures are controversial with many Azerbaijanis because state salaries remain low while the disparity between the country's very rich and its poor keeps growing. Much of Azerbaijan's oil wealth has been limited to those around the president, while the rest of the economy has stagnated.

Critics will no doubt be wondering whether Azerbaijani officials' interest in bringing home Olympic gold might finally have grown to such an extent that someone would seek to buy victory at any price. It is too early to know the answer, but the discovery of a $9 million loan to boxing authorities just as the run-up to the London Olympics begins was bound to raise eyebrows in a country where the government's obsession with medals is only too well known.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Zoroastra from: Persia
September 23, 2011 21:39
Back in the good old days of Sheherezade Ali Baba and his 40 thieves had a cave to store the loot they plundered.Today`s Ali Babalievich is called Allahtan Ilham and he has bought himself a `country`,a win in the` EURO`vision song contest and now a couple of olympic gold medals.Now we shouid award him the Chenghiz Khan prize for World Democracy.Shukran.

by: George from: United States
September 23, 2011 23:03
Ye try to buy everything with oil money. They are even trying to re-write their history with oil money. Trying to claim others peoples lands with oil money. What a shame!!!
In Response

by: Tural Abbasov from: US, Omaha, Nebraska
September 24, 2011 15:18
George, Yes, it is shamefull to pay for the gold medal in the Olyimpics. But, those lands that you are talking about do not belong to somebody else. Those lands are historical Azerbaijani territories occupied by somebody else. According to UN's 994, 974... decision those lands are under occupation and should be returned to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has 1 millon refuges, just because of the occupation of 20% of Azerbaijani territory. Next time please investigate before judging
In Response

by: www.armenian-history.com from: web
September 24, 2011 23:44

Mr. Abbasov, Sir!

Please don't embarrass yourself by repeating poorly written Azeri-Turk propaganda. Take a calculator - I hope you are capable of calculating a simple math proportion. Find out the total square mileage of Soviet Azerbaijan, the Autonomous Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh minus territories currently occupied by Bazaarbaijan Republicasi, plus territories liberated by Artsakh Armenians from Azeri-Turk yoke and calculate the percentage. There is no 20% there! Not even close...

People on this site are much more sophisticated then Russian city dwellers that get cheated by Azeri-Turks selling them rotten tomatoes and cucumbers. Stop repeating Sultan Ilham Heydar-ogly Aliyev's propaganda!

His father, former KGB general and dictator of both Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic and later Azerbaijan Republic, used to use this trick reporting Azeri economic output to get an extra kiss in lips from Secretary General Brezhnev.

There are lies, outrageous lies, and then Azeri statistics... Only using Azeri calculations know-how you could get 1 million refugees out of scarcely populated mountainous region where nomadic Azeri-Turk sheep-herders only went in the Summer times after the invading Turkish regular Army killed native Armenians starting in 1918.

Please do yourself a favor - READ these UN resolutions carefully - there is nothing there that you claim - instead, there is a repeated call for Azeri-Turk forces to pull out of the Armenian populated territories and stop killings of Armenian civilian population. After each of these resolutions Azri-Turks promised to comply and then under the "leadership" of their Dear Leader illegitimate Sultan Heydar Aliyev, broke their promises and lost more territories until he was completely defeated loosing 37k+ soldiers and mercenaries and being forced to sign the cease fire.
In Response

by: nurane from: azerbaijan
September 24, 2011 16:01
its so bad news for our country but there is one thing-its reality...

by: john from: us
September 24, 2011 16:17
oil money will but this ali baba next.

by: tochi from: NA
September 25, 2011 03:22
what do you expect from a country that has a "democratically" elected president for life. Alyiev and his gang buy whatever they want such as: loyalty, weaponry, security, "historians" for the legitimization of a country called Azerbaijan, and now
they attempt to buy Olympic Gold and "own" something that is not hteir own.....somehow this all fits the character perfectly.

by: Asim from: London
September 26, 2011 03:24
I’m surprised at everyone who is shock at Azerbaijan. I’m not even shocked at the Olympics as this is not unusual for them either. I’m most shocked at the BBC. Aliyev was probably too cheap and did not pay them off.

Azerbaijan is like most nouveau-riche trying to buy respect and prestige. Everyone might be laughing at them now but it remains to be seen who will have the last laugh. Will they actually get have enough money to succeed. The answer is probably yes in areas like Eurovision and the Olympics. They may also buy up countries like Georgia and temporary influence in countries like Belarus or anywhere else they are spending a lot of money. It’s definitely not going to be enough to take Nagorno-Karabakh from the Armenians.

I don’t think it matters too much to the Aliyev’s. They’re winners either way or the people of Azerbaijan are losers either way. Most of their history is a fabrication and their most of their future after oil is bleak. They ridicule countries like Armenia or Georgia but they don’t have a better future. Turkey seems to have a promising future despite problems with Kurds, Armenians, and Greeks because it’s a real country and not a joke—whatever else it may be.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
September 26, 2011 12:08
Yes,dear Asim,cold turkey is a `real` country,as you alledge,but please tellme where would that real country be without the west pouring billions of $$$$each year plus the intelligence &millitary help the proud ,sensitive &freedom loving turkeys get from east & west??? Cold turkey is a market,not a country ,its based on the blood of millions of civilians and it will go down the same way it went `up`-in rivers of blood.Might is not right ,Asim djan,and the drugged with their `power` turks and their backers will never get out of their cold turkey state of mind.See ya all at Armageddon.Shukran.

Most Popular