The Executive Producer of the 2012 contest, Adil Kerimli of Ictimai TV, informed the Reference Group on a variety of topics. Kerimli presented three venue options, one of them being the arena that is currently under construction nearby the National Flag Square in Baku. Based on a variety of factors, a venue will be officially appointed at a later stage. All options were considered suitable, but no decision was taken.
Kerimli, who has been Head of Delegation since Azerbaijan's first participation in 2008, also presented a preliminary list of official hotels. Several hotels are currently under construction and most of them will open their doors before the end of the year. As usual, a sufficient amount of rooms has been block-booked for delegates and press. A variety of hotels will be available for fans and other foreign guests.
The contest's governing body was also introduced to the work of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which will support Ictimai TV with various aspects of the Eurovision Song Contest organization.
During a visit to the Ictimai TV premises, the Reference Group and the organization team of the EBU spoke with the broadcaster's staff about the significance of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest. Jørgen Franck, director ad interim of the EBU's television department, said to the staff: "Every year, the contest has something new to offer. Based on what I've heard today, I am sure that we will see a magnificent show next year in Baku. We fully support Ictimai TV in that, and will continue to work closely with you also after the contest."
Ictimai TV, which celebrated its sixth anniversary last week, was accepted as an Active Member of the EBU in 2007.
At the meeting with Ictimai TV staff, Event Supervisor Sietse Bakker spoke about the commitment of Azerbaijani youth towards the Eurovision Song Contest: "If we want this contest to last for another fifty-some years, we need to involve and embrace a young generation. For Azerbaijani youth, the presence of the Eurovision Song Contest in their capital is an opportunity to see what it takes to organize an event of this scale, to meet foreign guests and to exchange cultural values."
On the second day of the meeting, the Reference Group discussed the accreditation concept, brainstormed about the evolution of the contest's format and talked about possible improvements of the rules.
Jon Ola Sand, Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), expressed his appreciation for the well-organized meeting.
During an interview with Radio Liberty, Sand was asked about freedom of press in Azerbaijan: "The EBU is a non-political organization. But we are a media organization. We will always speak for our Members to gain the freedom they need. The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event, but if it contributes to Azerbaijani society, I would be happy."
The next Reference Group meeting shall take place in October in Geneva, at the EBU headquarters.
Semi-Finals of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest will take place on 22 and 24 May, the Final is set for 26 May. Over 40 countries are expected to be represented.