ImportantCool associate Edward Miller talks to environmental justice campaigner Emma Hughes about how BP and Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev dynasty have used events like the Euro Games to divert attention from human rights abuses and pipeline politics.
While European attention has been focused squarely on the unfolding financial skirmish between Greece and the troika, the inaugural Euro Games in Baku, Azerbaijan have come and gone with little global recognition. For sports watchers the games will probably fade into obscurity; many professional athletes didn’t bother to attend (some had to attend because it is an Olympic qualifier event) and few records were set. In fact you’d be forgiven for completely missing the supposedly historic event, while much of its news coverage breathlessly crossed into allegations of media censorship and other human rights abuses in the oil-rich state. One article in The Telegraph sardonically begins “Are you looking forward to the European Games in Baku? No?”
In the days leading up to the games their already-shaky legitimacy took some major blows. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced she would not be attending, and the 2019 games were left homeless after proposed hosts the Netherlands decided it was too expensive. To make matters worse, in a poorly calculated move, overzealous Azerbaijani security forces detained journalists and human rights organizations at the Baku airport for a number of hours, before denying them entry.