The Price Of Gold

Last time I checked (which admittedly was this morning) the price of gold was around $1,740 per troy ounce. But an Azeri businessman has decided that with national pride at stake, it’s worth much MUCH more than that.

The BBC’s Newsnight uncovered evidence that an Azeri business man paid $9 million to the World Series Boxing (WSB) organisation, in return for a guarantee that Azerbaijani fighters would win two boxing gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics.

Of course, everyone involved denies the allegations, and they’ve all spouted off about how they will conduct full and in-depth “internal” investigations. Which if they’re carried out in the same fashion as that Über-corrupt bourgeoisie outfit, FIFA, will amount to nothing.

Newsnight reported that whistleblowers saying Mr Khodabakhsh – the Chief Operating Officer of the AIBA’s World Series Boxing (WSB) – had told them that a secret deal had been done to secure funding from Azerbaijan in return for manipulation of the Olympic boxing tournament to guarantee gold medals for Azerbaijani fighters.

One insider told Newsnight: “Ivan boasted to a few of us that there was no need to worry about World Series Boxing having the coin to pay its bills. As long as the Azeris got their medals, WSB would have the cash.”

Another said that Mr Khodabakhsh came in and said: “We are safe now – Azerbaijan came in – we have to give them medals for that.”

But what confuses me is the following. AIBA admits that there was money involved, BUT claims it was for investment purposes. Yeah right!! They claim that the money was paid by a private individual, and that because of his inability to communicate in English, that is why the Azeri government got involved. Hmmm, really? If he can afford to invest $9 million, surely to God he could afford to pay for a fecking interpreter! And why would Azerbaijan’s Minister for Emergency Situations, Kamaladdin Heydarov get involved? Surely it should have fallen under the remit of Azerbaijan’s Minister for Youth and Sports, Azad Rahimov? Right? Assuming of course that everything was legit and above board.

Sadly though, that is never the case when it comes to Azerbaijan, or any of the other CIS nations for that matter. Corruption, pay-offs and brown envelopes are the standard modus operandi in that part of the world. And with the price of oil and gas remaining ever high, and the EU’s reluctance to remain ever-more at the mercy of Russia’s Gazprom, Azerbaijan’s political star is fast on the rise. The EU announced their intentions to partly fund the building of the Nabucco Pipeline, whose sole purpose in life is to by-pass Russia completely and pump oil and gas from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan to Europe via Turkey.

And Azerbaijan is putting these newly acquired “petro dollars” to good use – in their eyes at least. Now that they will no longer have to give the lions-share to Gazprom to transport the oil and gas into Europe, they have suddenly found themselves cash-rich because they can send it to Europe directly themselves, completely by-passing Russia. So what does a cash-rich petro economy do? They do what they’ve always done. They build, and they build big. It has recently spent billions ($6 billion a year to be exact) on efforts to shed its old Soviet past with the building of over 500 new developments. A whole range of audacious (and often pretentious and garish) buildings such as the Flame Towers and Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center. The construction plans are so impressive that they even rival those of the Beijing Olympics in China.

And with these concrete, steel and glass White Elephants dotted all over Baku and rest of the country, the government clearly needs to attract key events to host and showcase their architectural wonders, thus enabling them to justify the enormous amounts spent on the build, rather than improving the standard of living for the average Azeri.

Perhaps that is the reason for wanting to win Gold so much in London and for the reason they rigged last years Eurovision result? I just hope that the venue they plan to host it in 2012 is completed on time. Afterall, not many people like having wet paint on their fur stoles.

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