On the eve of Baku’s mini-Olympics for Europe, Germany’s body for Olympic sports seems to have become the first major European sports authority to heed calls to take Azerbaijan’s government to task for human-rights abuses.
With a week to go before the European Games kick off, the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) on June 4 said it shares international concerns over Azerbaijan’s crackdown against government-critics.
“We support human rights and freedom of the press, and we are going to talk about this in Baku, too,” the confederation’s chairperson, Michael Vasper, said, Frankfurter Allgemeine reported.
Amidst grumblings by many economically vulnerable Azerbaijanis, Baku is footing a massive bill for the Games -- $1.2 billion, officially, but, as the BBC reported this week, “the real figure may be much higher.”
The June-12-to-June-28 Games are a pet-project of the country's strongman leader, President Ilham Aliyev, and Azerbaijani officials, sticking to tradition, don’t buy any of the criticism.
Veteran political advisor Ali Hasanov on June 5 delivered a familiar lecture to Azerbaijani media-bosses about the West's alleged "double standards."
“If this is the West’s democracy, we are against it,” local media outlets reported Hasanov as saying.
Praising its "sound journalism," he advised that Azerbaijani media stay on its toes for any enemy-propaganda about the Games.
The pro-government news agency APA seems eager to comply. On June 5, it claimed that it had unearthed an allegedly “provocative collaboration” between the European Union’s mission to Baku and the Greek embassy to keep both international delegations and Greek President Prokopis Pavlopulos away from the Games.
Responses from the EU and Greece do not appear to have been released yet.