Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the ceremony dedicated to sport results of 2017
18 december 2017, 09:45
Dear friends, year 2017 is coming to an end. This year, Azerbaijani athletes have delighted our people with great victories. The development of sports in Azerbaijan is going very fast. Every year our athletes demonstrate good results in various international competitions and win medals. This year there are also a lot of medals. This year, Azerbaijani sportsmen have won 851 medals in all international competitions, of which 347 were gold medals. Compared to last year, the number of medals has increased. This testifies to the fact that the development of sports is dynamic and our athletes consistently win great victories.
We have had many victories this year. I would like to mention several of them today. Our chess players have become European champions for the third time. This is a great victory and a great result. This result shows that our athletes rise to the highest level in combat, team and intellectual sports. To win the European Chess Championships is indeed a great achievement and a great victory.
This year, two of our athletes – Magomedrasul Majidov and Haji Aliyev – became three-time world champions in boxing and freestyle wrestling respectively. This is also a historic victory. To be a three-time world champion in an Olympic sport is a great success and a huge victory.
The pupil of the Azerbaijani sports school, Azerbaijani athlete Ramil Guliyev, has become world champion in track and field athletics for the first time this year. This is also a historic victory.
Our athletes have shown very good results in team sports as well. In the European Women’s Championship in Volleyball held in Baku, our team finished in fourth place. They were quite close to finishing on the podium. In the semi-final, they were very close to winning. But I think that to finish fourth in such a popular sport as volleyball in Europe is also a great achievement. Of course, our football players, FC "Garabagh" which is so dear to all of us, participated in the group stage of the European Champions League for the first time in history. This is a great victory for Azerbaijani football, and the team represented our country, people and Karabakh in these matches with great dignity.
I remember the time when we were building the Olympic Stadium. Some opinions were expressed that we probably do not need such a big arena, that we have a 30,000-seat stadium named after Tofig Bahramov and other stadiums, and that this arena will never fill up. But life shows that more than 60,000 spectators came to the matches of FC "Garabagh". The Baku Olympic Stadium today is one of a handful of Olympic stadiums that stand out on a global scale. It is no coincidence that the final match of the UEFA Europa League will also take place in this stadium in a few years. At the same time, several matches of the European Football Championship will be held at this stadium.
This year, a representative of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation, Farid Gayibov, was elected president of the European Union of Gymnastics. This is also a historic achievement because a representative of Azerbaijan has never led the European sports federation before. This is also a manifestation of the development of gymnastics and sports in Azerbaijan in recent years. Many international competitions hosted in our country have already demonstrated Azerbaijan to the world’s sport community as a dynamically developing, modern and strong state, and as a result of this our representatives are now promoted to senior roles in the European sports family.
Of course, the biggest success of our country this year was the victory of Azerbaijani athletes at the Games of Islamic Solidarity held in Baku. These Games were a great celebration of sport, friendship and brotherhood in the true sense of the word. Azerbaijan hosted the leading athletes from all Muslim countries, and I am sure that they have returned to their home countries with the most pleasant impressions. The games that took place here once again demonstrated the strength of Azerbaijan. They showed that Azerbaijan is a sports nation recognized on a global scale. At the European Games in 2015, the Azerbaijani team finished in second place and at the Games of Islamic Solidarity in 2017 we finished first. More than 3,000 athletes, thousands of experts and visitors took part in these Games and got acquainted with the realities of Azerbaijan.
I have brought to your attention several important sporting events. But there were many more victories. As I have mentioned, we won 851 medals, and it is gratifying that our athletes became champions and winners in combat, team and intellectual sports.
The representative international competitions held in Baku have attracted the attention of the whole world. I should also note that the Formula-1 event was held in Baku for the second time this year. According to the common opinion, which has already been mentioned in foreign media, this competition was recognized as the best competition of the year among 20 Formula-1 competitions. In other words, it is also our great achievement and a great success. Unlike many Formula-1 competitions, our event is held in the city, which also demonstrates to the whole world, an audience of half a billion spectators, the beauty of the city of Baku. It is no coincidence that the number of tourists visiting our country in 2016 increased by 24 per cent and by a further 20 per cent in 11 months of 2017. Of course, the reason for that is not only the Formula-1 competition, but also the development, stability, security, the hospitality of our people, our modern infrastructure, the beauty of our city, modern hotels, and simplified visa regulations in Azerbaijan. At the same time, I think that Formula-1 is a unique competition for promoting our country. In other words, 500 million spectators regularly watch these competitions and, let me say again, see the beauty of Baku and the power of Azerbaijan.
Thus, only the events I have mentioned, these victories suggest that Azerbaijan is a strong sporting nation in the true sense of the word. I am sure that our athletes will continue to delight us with more victories. Great attention is being paid to the development of sports in Azerbaijan. A state policy is being pursued and the material and technical infrastructure of sports is being strengthened. The sports facilities in Baku meet the highest international standards. The construction of Olympic sport centers continues in the regions. This year, two wonderful Olympic sport centers have been established in Absheron and Agjabadi districts. Next year, there are funds envisaged in the state budget for the construction of three centers in the regions. One of them will be put into operation, while the other two will still be under construction. We will continue this policy in the coming years too. To date, 43 Olympic sport centers have been established in the regions. They offer excellent opportunities to young people, sportsmen and ordinary residents of the districts.
Of course, work in this direction will be continued in the future. I am quite confident that our athletes will continue to delight us in international competitions. The reasons for all these successes are obvious. Sport is provided with state support. Athletes are taken a good care of. All sport organizations, the National Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, federations, clubs and sports societies, work towards one goal. In other words, our goal is to develop sports in Azerbaijan, promote Azerbaijan in the world as a strong sporting nation and ensure that people do sports. The reason behind the construction of regional Olympic centers is precisely to promote sport.
Whenever I meet with athletes, I always note that every person should do sports. Physical health is very important for everyone. In recent years, we have accomplished a lot in this direction. In all the regions, we have built modern hospitals and diagnostic centers. State-organized work on prophylactic medical examination and checkups is under way. Every year, more than five million people undergo medical examination at the expense of the state. The environmental situation is improving. The implementation of drinking water projects has gained momentum. Of course, physical exercise is one of the important factors of public health. The popularity of sports is important not so much to achieve sport results, but simply for everyone to feel good.
I am glad that our young athletes are also pleasing us with their victories. Without youth and children's sports, it is impossible to talk about any success in sport. The younger generation is also growing up. It is already joining competitions, winning victories and thus ensuring the continuity of our sporting successes. If we pay attention to the results of all Summer Olympic Games we have participated in, we will see that we win more medals every time. In other words, this result is ensured by the level of training and the interest of youths and teenagers in sport clubs. In the latest summer Olympic Games in Rio, Azerbaijan finished in 14th place in the world for the number of medals won. This is a historic victory. Several years ago, such a victory could not even be imagined. We have achieved this level in only 25 years. At the Olympic Games in Rio, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of our independence, we won a great victory which made a major contribution to our independence. The Azerbaijani people have once again demonstrated to the whole world that sport is at a high level in Azerbaijan. If we pay attention to sporting results, we will see that in most cases sport develops fast only in developed countries because the development of sport requires major funds.
Therefore, the development of sport occupies an important place in the overall landscape of our development. Azerbaijan has covered a road of successful development in each direction in recent years. Our strong economic opportunities, the strengthening of our international standing and the recognition of Azerbaijan in the international arena as a highly respected country have certainly created conditions for our overall successes. Sport is an integral part of our society. Athletes enjoy great respect in society. I also want to note that the vast majority of our athletes, especially the well-known ones, are an example for young people also in everyday life. The victories of our athletes and the fact that they are awarded by the state inspire children, teenagers and young athletes. They also want to become outstanding champions, achieve great successes and raise our flag. They want the people to know and respect them.
Therefore, it is impossible to treat sport only as a sector today. Sport plays a very important part in the public life of any country. It is no coincidence that countries strive to win high places in international competitions, world championships and especially in Olympic Games. After all, it brings countries even greater glory. If we look at the history of the Games of Islamic Solidarity, we can see how intense the struggle was. At the same time, there was tough competition at the European Games. Of course, to finish in first and second places at such representative competitions is a historic victory for us.
The development of sports will continue to be in the spotlight. This year, we have also marked the 25th anniversary of the National Olympic Committee. I expressed my thoughts at that event too. The Azerbaijani state will continue to take care of athletes. We will do everything necessary to develop sports. We wish our athletes new victories and new successes.
Taking the opportunity – we meet at the end of each year – I want to wish all the athletes a happy New Year and the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis. I wish you continued success and victories. Thank you.