EUROVISION 2012: IN EXPECTATION OF A GREAT HOLIDAY
Chairperson of the Organizing Committee of Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in Baku, First Lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, MP Mehriban Aliyeva answers questions of Trend Agency
Correspondent : First of all, let us congratulate you on the occasion of Novruz holiday. It is already the end of March and there is very little time left for the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku. What does its approach mean to you - joyful expectation of the holiday, as for the majority, or the period of heavy and hard work?
Mehriban Aliyeva: Today we all are in expectation of the great all-European music holiday. Music language is clear to everyone, regardless of nationality and religion. And it is very symbolic that representatives of different countries, different styles of music will be on the same stage, songs will be heard in different languages in these days of May. The fact of holding the contest in our country is the result of brilliant victory of our duo, great success of both performers and all those, who took part in the preparation of their victorious performance. But today we face a different challenge: to adequately hold the Eurovision 2012. For most of its participants, guests and spectators it will be the first meeting with our country. I am confident that the upcoming contest will help many people to learn more about Azerbaijan, get acquainted with its history and culture. Many guests will see how beautiful Baku is, will visit historical and cultural monuments, and will walk along the streets, architecture of which harmoniously combines the East and the West. They will see our people's warmth and hospitality with their own eyes. I hope that most of them will make their own idea of ancient and rapidly developing Azerbaijan. And leaving the Land of Fire, many of them will take piece of this fire in their soul - it is not for nothing that the motto of our contest is "Light Your fire!" At the same time, preparing such a large-scale event is grand work. For instance, hosting the 2020 Olympics is already under discussion. However,the venue of the next Eurovision song contest is determined in the last minutes of the previous contest. And the host country is given one year for preparations. So, it is necessary to do a lot during that time. That's why we started preparation for the contest from the first days after our victory. The Organizing Committee was immediately created to provide support in resolving issues relating to the coordination of the work of state agencies, required for successful holding of the contest. The Organizing Committee closely works with the working group on preparation of the Eurovision. Now this work is nearing to completion. And really very little time is left for the contest.
Correspondent: How do you assess the quality of preparation for the Eurovision?
Mehriban Aliyeva: It will be possible to properly estimate the level and quality of preparation for Eurovision only when the contest ends. Meantime, in my opinion, the most reliable and impartial criteria is the opinion of representatives and experts of the European Broadcasting Union. They highly estimated the level of our country's preparation for the all-European Song Contest. And, indeed, much has been done. Specific tasks aimed at upgrading urban infrastructure, expansion of communication technologies, comfortable accommodation of guests and participants have been set for the authorities, which are included in the Organizing Committee. Along with improving the existing hotels, new hotels are being built in the capital, and work is underway to improve highways.
By order of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, visa obtaining process for the contest participants and guests has been simplified. Everything possible is being done to adequately host and organize this contest in the country.
Correspondent: You stressed that holding Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in Baku is another chance to introduce Azerbaijan to the world, to acquaint the contest participants and guests with the past and present of our country, to help them make their own ideas about Azerbaijan. How and with what will our country meet guests and participants to the contest?
Mehriban Aliyeva: I would like to tell more about the venue of the contest in detail. As you know, Baku proposed three venues for the show. One of them was Baku Crystal Hall. It is also worth noting that Baku Crystal Hall was included in the list of sports arenas as part of our country's appeal to host the Olympics in 2020. Crystal Hall is located near the National Flag Square, which opens up a magnificent view of the city. This complex will become the largest sports and concert arena of the South Caucasus. Its architecture is a "bridge" between East and West. There will be many crystals on the walls of this building and the play of light on it will create quite amazing visual effects. I am sure that thanks to both local and foreign experts' efforts, the construction of this magnificent arena will be completed on time. A press center for journalists, who intend to cover the contest, will be located next to it. Large television screens will be installed in different parts of the city, which will also display the contest. Along with Eurovision, other cultural events will be held, and now their list is being clarified. Construction of "New Boulevard", which will stretch to the National Flag Square, will be completed by the beginning of the contest.
Correspondent: Mrs Aliyeva, as we are talking about the construction of the "New Boulevard", I would like to ask about something. The media, including that in European countries, has been paying much attention for the last weeks to the problem that arose, allegedly as a result of demolishing the houses associated with the preparation for the "Eurovision" song contest. It is a dissatisfaction of the tenants of these houses ...
Mehriban Aliyeva: Yes, I am familiar with these media reports. Unfortunately, not all authors of the articles dedicated to the upcoming contest, are competent in the topic they write about. First of all, I want to stress once again that the demolition of houses has nothing to do with the preparations for the Eurovision song contest. Indeed, our native Baku is changing. New parks and roads are being laid. Houses and office complexes are being built. This reconstruction began before our duo won the Eurovision Song Contest and will continue after the contest ends. This issue has nothing to do with Eurovision. But the experts say that while carrying out such large-scale operations, there is a necessity for demolition of shabby, uncomfortable, low-rise houses, that do not meet modern requirements.
A similar situation was happening, happens and, I can assure you, will be happening almost far and wide where new roads are being laid, houses are being built or a new subway line is being laid.
I want to assure everything is done in accordance with the law in Azerbaijan. Residents of demolished houses get compensation. They are provided with new houses.
But there will always be those dissatisfied, during the resettlement of many families. It is related to both objective and subjective factors.
Somewhere there will be one of dozens of people, dissatisfied with the amount of compensation, determined in accordance with the market, although it is paid in equal amount to everybody. And somewhere, a low-ranking official may appear, who did not show enough tact to assist in moving or creating the appropriate conditions. Of course, these cases must be considered in accordance with the law to which all are equal, regardless of their positions.
I think the "averaged" approach is inadmissible. It is even more unpleasant when one connects this problem with the Eurovision song contest to create more noise. The demolition of houses has nothing to do with this issue. Even the European Broadcasting Union officially warned the highly respected and reputable foreign media, that one must not disseminate biased and tendentious information about Eurovision Song Contest. It is more puzzling and frustrating when one tries to politicize these processes.
The European song contest is a big and beautiful holiday for some people but for others - an occasion to organize a political provocation. One must be prepared for this. But I am sure that one will fail to spoil the holiday for us and more than 40 participating countries. It is pleasant that the civil society launched an initiative of young guys who called on all citizens to support the contest in the country. This request has found a response among a large number of famous people. This position demonstrates our citizens' real attitude to holding this contest in Azerbaijan best of all.
Correspondent: You have mentioned that more than 40 countries will participate in Eurovision-2012 in Baku. Some have already chosen the artist and song of the contest, while others still use the last days to make a decision. The media reported a few days ago that Armenia refused from participating in the Eurovision song contest, because the contest will be held in the capital of Azerbaijan.
Mehriban Aliyeva: The Armenian side's decision puzzles me and other people as well, as I think. The European Broadcasting Union and the Azerbaijani authorities have repeatedly confirmed that they provide participants and guests of the contest from all countries, including Armenia with security guarantees. Official delegations from Armenia have repeatedly arrived to Azerbaijan to participate in international meetings, conferences, forums, and sports events. The Azerbaijani authorities always ensured the Armenian delegation members' security.
And I have no doubt that the security of Armenia's guests and participants of Eurovision song contest as always would have been fully ensured.
Yerevan first promised to take part in the contest, demanded security guarantees and was granted with them. However later, Yerevan refused from participating in Eurovision song contest.
I think that this is disrespectful to the participants of the contest and the European Broadcasting Union, which has worked hard to ensure Armenia's safe participation in the contest.
Without a doubt, every country that is a member of the European Broadcasting Union may have its own reasons for which it refuses from participating in the contest. But it causes perplexity and regret that Yerevan is trying to explain its refusal from taking part in Eurovision song contest by numerous groundless accusations against Azerbaijan. People say that one must strive to victory in life, but sometimes it is necessary to know how to lose.
Sometimes it is easier to suffer own failure, rather than accept someone else's success. Unfortunately, there is a category of people in Azerbaijan who live for many years and operate on the principle "the worse for the country, the better for them." The aim of their social and political activities is to try slander all the positive events happening in Azerbaijan. These people perceive our victory at Eurovision song contest as a personal tragedy. Fortunately, these people constitute an absolute minority of our society and their attempts to interfere with holding the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku are doomed to failure.
Correspondent: And the last question. What would you like to wish the participants and guests of the Eurovision song contest in Baku?
Mehriban Aliyeva: I wish all participants success, audience sympathy, applause, and, of course, votes. I am pleased to invite the participants and guests to our beautiful and sunny Baku. I am confident that this meeting with a holiday will leave the most pleasant memories of all who will come for Eurovision in May. I say to all of them: Welcome!
Correspondent: Thank you for the interview.
Baku, Azerbaijan, 19 March 2012