Oil-funded sports events as the embodiment of the evolution of post-Soviet Azerbaijan
This chapter examines the political and societal attributes of post-Soviet Azerbaijan through the recent international sport events trend in the country. Emphasis is placed on the 2015 Baku First European Games, but the analysis is framed in the larger context of the South Caucasus country also hosting the 2016 Islamic Solidarity Games and the Formula One Grand Prix within a five-year period, as well as the appointment of the Azerbaijani capital to host four matches of the 2020 European Championships. This major public investment in sport is funded by the second oil boom which occurred in Azerbaijan during the first decade of the twenty-first century. President Ilham Aliyev, who inherited his mandate from his father in 2003, had been previously elected as the head of the National Olympic Committee in 1997. Hence, under his authoritarian rule, sport has developed both as a crucial tool of nation-state building and a medium for the legitimisation of the regime. As this chapter shows, this is related to the strong Soviet political culture heritage consolidated around the figure of the leader, and with an absence of civic engagement. This chapter is based on in-depth qualitative research completed in Baku between September 2015 and July 2016.