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Baku's Fancy Facelift

The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, is hosting the first European Games between June 12-28. The government sees the event, governed by the European Olympic Committees (EOC), as a prestige project and has spent billions of dollars sprucing up the city. The construction boom has been funded by Azerbaijan's steady flow of oil revenues, but there has been controversy after deadly fires blamed on shoddy work. The preparations for the event have also been overshadowed by a crackdown on civil society -- with dozens of journalists and activists arrested.

The construction boom in full swing, 2014.
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The construction boom in full swing, 2014.

Baku Olympic Stadium, opened in March 2015, will host the opening and closing ceremonies. It will also host matches during the EURO 2020 football championship.
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Baku Olympic Stadium, opened in March 2015, will host the opening and closing ceremonies. It will also host matches during the EURO 2020 football championship.

A fire in a multi-story residential building in May, 2015, claimed more than a dozen lives. This and other fires have been blamed on decorative cladding applied to facades. The authorities have pledged to remove the cladding after the Games.
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A fire in a multi-story residential building in May, 2015, claimed more than a dozen lives. This and other fires have been blamed on decorative cladding applied to facades. The authorities have pledged to remove the cladding after the Games.

A general view shows the harbor area ahead of the 2015 European Games in Baku.
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A general view shows the harbor area ahead of the 2015 European Games in Baku.

Part of the Crystal Hall Complex reflected in a glass wall, June 10, 2015. A large swathe of the city was raised in 2012 to make place for the complex, which hosted the Eurovision Song Contest the same year.
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Part of the Crystal Hall Complex reflected in a glass wall, June 10, 2015. A large swathe of the city was raised in 2012 to make place for the complex, which hosted the Eurovision Song Contest the same year.

The athletes' village.
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The athletes' village.

"New Life Plaza" business center.
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"New Life Plaza" business center.

The Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, opened in 2012, is named after the former president who ruled between 1993-2003, before his son Ilham succeeded him.
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The Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, opened in 2012, is named after the former president who ruled between 1993-2003, before his son Ilham succeeded him.

The $175 million center houses a library, museum, concert halls, and a large shopping complex.
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The $175 million center houses a library, museum, concert halls, and a large shopping complex.

New residential buildings.
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New residential buildings.

The Baku skyline is reflected in a fountain, June 10, 2015.
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The Baku skyline is reflected in a fountain, June 10, 2015.

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