Exclusive - Azerbaijan Only Pitching to Win Olympics Not UEFA Euro 2020

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Baku 2020 chief executive Konul Nurullayeva (WFI)
(WFI) The head of Baku's 2020 Olympics bid Konul Nurullayeva tells World Football INSIDER that Azerbaijan is only focusing on its Olympic bid, denying reports that the country could team up with Georgia in a bid for UEFA's Euro 2020 football championships.

"It is just the wish of the president of Georgia to bid to have Euro 2020 with Azerbaijan. Nothing is official, nothing confirmed," Baku bid chief executive Konul Nurullayeva told INSIDER on Thursday. "We haven't decided anything yet from our side."

"First of all, we are focused on the bid for the 2020 Olympics. It is very important for us," she added.

Nurullayeva's comments came after Georgia's president Mikhail Saakashvili announced in an address to Azerbaijan's parliament on Wednesday that the two former Soviet nations were planning to form a joint pitch to secure UEFA's 2020 showpiece.

Georgia's sports minister Lado Vardzelashvili later said that more details of the possible Georgia-Azerbaijan Euro 2020 bid would be announced at the UEFA Congress in Istanbul on March 22, according to Azerbaijani media reports.

"This information came from the Georgian side not from our side. We are not thinking about a bid for the Euro 2020 championships together with Georgia," Nurullayeva said.

"The 2020 Olympic bid is much more important for us."

Baku 2020 are obviously keen to play down any talk of a future bid for UEFA's European Championships at this critical stage of the five-city race for the Olympics.

The IOC is set to narrow the field in May.

The Azeri capital submitted its applicant file to the IOC only last month and earlier this week the country's sports minister Azad Rahimov underlined his country's passion to land the Games in an exclusive interview
with Around the Rings, INSIDER's sister website.

He insisted Baku had learned a lot from the IOC evaluation of its 2016 Olympic bid and made improvements. The city failed to make it to the candidate city stage of the 2016 contest won by Rio.

In the first edition of the Around the Rings Olympic Bid Power Index for the 2020 Olympics, published yesterday, Baku trailed in fifth place behind the other bid cities - Doha, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo - with 61 out of a 100 possible points.

“I think this time we will make it,” said Rahimov of the expected IOC plan to trim the field of cities to four or three on May 23.

"We are strong, we are economically stable. We believe,” he added.

A bid from Azerbaijan for Euro 2020 only seems likely if Baku gets knocked out of the Olympic bid contest. Turkey, too, could bid if Istanbul fails to advance to the next phase of the 2020 race.

UEFA is expected to invite bids for the tournament in early 2013. The vote on the host country is set for May 2014.

Poland and Ukraine are the co-hosts of this summer's 16-nation showpiece, the first time is has been held in Eastern Europe. Euro 2012 kicks off with Poland v Greece in Warsaw on June 8. The final takes place at Kyiv's Olympic Stadium on July 1.

France beat off competition from Turkey and Italy in May 2010 to win hosting rights for the 2016 tournament. It will be the first UEFA European Championship to feature 24 teams.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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