Earlier today, Meydan TV published graphic video of a bus in Baku's Olympic Village running over several Austrian athletes. Three people were injured – two so seriously they had to be flown back to Austria for treatment. We wish all parties involved a full and speedy recovery.
Meydan TV is not a tabloid, and we are not in the practice of publishing gruesome or shocking video simply to drive traffic to our site. We published this video because it bluntly portrays the consequences of awarding international sporting events to corrupt, autocratic nations whose governments' sole concern is promoting themselves on the world stage.
The Azerbaijani government organized the European Games in just two and a half years, as Minister of Youth and Sports Azad Rahimov was happy to point out in a June 9th interview with CNN. However, CNN failed to press Rahimov on whether, in the name of expediency, any preparations received more attention than others.
One could ask how the organizing committee successfully vetted and selected all the vendors required to build multiple stadiums, refurbish hundreds of buildings, and overhaul the public transit system in such a short period of time. One could also ask how the organizing committee managed to recruit, vet, and train the thousands of employees working at the games simultaneously.
We would ask these questions because visitors to the athletes' village tell Meydan TV that organizers are providing free alcohol for participants and attendees in the Olympic Village, and intoxicated workers – including bus drivers – are not an uncommon sight. Although we have no evidence that the driver in the video had been drinking at this time, we obviously must question the wisdom of providing the staff charged with the safety and security of thousands of athletes and spectators with access to free alcohol.
Earlier today, Meydan TV interviewed Orxan Akhmedov, who claimed to be the son of the driver in the video. According to Akhmedov, his father was taken to the police station after the incident and is currently being questioned without a lawyer. He insists his father has been driving a bus for 20 years, has a valid license (not a given in Azerbaijan), and the accident is a result of the bus not being in working order.
Details are still scarce. The accident may have been a result of poor maintenance, or it may have been criminal negligence on the part of the driver. What is not in doubt is that the organizers of the games seem more concerned with public relations than with ensuring the safety of their international guests.
The injured athletes were not the first casualties of the games. On May 19, sixteen people (including five children) died after a Baku apartment building burst into flames. The building was one of 800 in Baku the government cladded with highly flammable material as part of a pre-games 'beautification' campaign. Without the European Games, these sixteen people would be alive today.
To burnish the image of the Aliyev family with these games, Azerbaijan has spent over $8 billion of public funds, imprisoned dozens of vocal critics, and barred potentially troublesome foreign journalists from the country.
When pressed on Azerbaijan's human rights record, the European Olympic Committee denied it was their responsibility to “pass judgment on the legal or political processes of a sovereign nation.” By refusing to do so, they have not disregarded their own charter, but also placed the lives of the games' 6,000 athletes at risk.