- Dear sportsmen, dear friends!
I cordially greet all of you. Today we are officially sending off our Olympic and Paralympic teams that will participate in the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. The Olympic Games will start at the end of this month and Paralympic Games at the end of next month. I wish all our athletes great success. I am confident that our sportsmen will worthily represent Azerbaijan and return home with major victories.
There is every reason to say so because sport is rapidly and successfully developing in Azerbaijan.
The development of sport in Azerbaijan is a state policy and our government has taken specific steps to develop Azerbaijani sports. This policy continues today. Sport has become an integral part of our society. There is great respect for athletes in society. Everyday problems of sportsmen are solved at a high level. All these factors give a strong impetus to the development of sport and raise the interest in sport among children, adolescents and youths.
I am very pleased that children’s interest in various sports has become widespread. There are all the conditions to engage in sports now. By developing sport, we achieve several important goals. First, we raise the sporting glory of our country and popularize sports. The creation of the sports infrastructure has further bolstered interest in sport. Sport is very important for everyone's health. Sport makes people physically healthy and instills our great national and spiritual values in athletes, in our children. In short, Azerbaijan has conducted a very successful policy to develop sport. In fact, our experience is studied in and applied to some other countries.
Azerbaijan has all the factors crucial to the development of sports. Our athletes proudly represent the country in the international arena, winning hundreds of medals each year. The national flag of Azerbaijan is hoisted, our national anthem is played at world and European championships. Of course, it is a great pleasure for every citizen of Azerbaijan, makes anyone feel proud. I am sure that our athletes will continue to represent the country worthily.
Extensive construction and creative work is carried out to promote sport in Azerbaijan. Thus far we have built 34 regional Olympic centers, the construction of eight others is ongoing. I am sure that a modern Olympic center will soon be opened in each district center. We started this policy in 2000. In the past 12 years we have established modern Olympic facilities in most our districts. Young athletes and children are effectively using these opportunities. Some members of our national Olympic team also started their sporting careers at the Olympic centers built in recent years.
I want to reiterate that this promotes sport and is an important means of training our young athletes. I also want to mention that I am very pleased that the dynamics of sport development in Azerbaijan is very positive. A younger generation is growing up, most members of our Olympic team will participate in the Games for the first time. This suggests that sport is developing consistently, there is continuity as older champions are replaced by younger ones.
Young people's interest in sports is especially important. This interest manifests itself also through the results of sporting events. Azerbaijani sportsmen achieved a lot at the first World Youth Olympic Games by finishing 10th among teams. This shows that sport is steadily developing in Azerbaijan, young people are showing great interest in sports.
This will enable us to make our successes more sustainable as a talented generation of sportsmen grows up in subsequent periods. As for the popularity of sport, I want to reiterate that, of course, sport should be part of everyday life for everyone. I encourage everyone to do sports. Sport is very useful. It makes a man physically strong. Athletes, in particular, Azerbaijani athletes, have great spiritual values. Not surprisingly, Azerbaijani society has a huge respect for athletes. Our athletes have won this respect both with their victories and public engagement.
Azerbaijan is a relatively young independent state. Our independence is only 20 years old. But, as in all other areas, we have achieved great successes in sports. Azerbaijan is known worldwide as a sporting nation. We have secured a rightful place in the international sporting family. Today, Azerbaijani sportsmen are a very serious challenge for any opponent.
It is not easy to become a sporting nation. We have won this status through hard work, the work of our athletes and their coaches. Also, the system of sports management in Azerbaijan is perfect. I also want to note, and I personally am a witness to the fact that Azerbaijan's experience is studied in many countries. Sometimes there are contradictions between sports federations, sports associations and clubs, between national Olympic committees and the ministries. In Azerbaijan, all the organizations dealing with sports, the National Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, federations, sports associations and clubs, work together as a team. Because our goal is to develop sport and contribute to Azerbaijan’s success.
This management system has led to such results. Activities based on deliberate and targeted programs have produced excellent results. If we look at the dynamics of our performance in international competitions and Olympic Games, we can observe growing success every year. Our athletes win hundreds of medals in both Olympic and non-Olympic sports each year. I want to stress that, unlike some countries, we do not differentiate, we don’t allow any discrimination here.
For me as President of the country and President of the National Olympic Committee, there is no difference between Olympic and non-Olympic sports because all our athletes represent Azerbaijan. They represent Azerbaijan at all competitions and strive to achieve victory. We have a great desire to win. So there are excellent conditions in Azerbaijan for the development of both Olympic and non-Olympic sports.
The federations have been reinforced. The senior executives leading federations perform their duties. So each federation must and does act on the basis of a concrete plan. Each federation must produce results. Athletes united in federations must show results and achieve victories. Sport has and will have such multifaceted development in Azerbaijan.
The world’s sporting and Olympic community is also watching the developments in Azerbaijan with great interest and approval. Our international relations are at a high level. As a result, international competitions, European and world championships hosted in Azerbaijan have already become a tradition. Not a month passes without a representative international competition being held in Azerbaijan. At times, competitions in several sports are held in Azerbaijan in a matter of one week. This suggests that the available sports infrastructure, the attention to athletes and the hospitality of our people have given us such opportunities.
Along with regional Olympic centers, extensive Olympic infrastructure is created in Baku too. Several major sports and concert halls have been built in recent years. The biggest and the most spectacular of these, of course, is Baku Crystal Hall which hosted the Eurovision song contest. It can also host any sporting event. After the reconstruction and restoration of the National Stadium named after Tofig Bahramov, it meets international standards. We will celebrate its reopening after renovation in the coming days.
The foundation of a new Olympic stadium was laid in Baku last year. Work is currently under way on a feasibility study and an engineering project. I hope the construction of the Olympic Stadium will begin this year and it will be the biggest and the most modern Olympic stadium in the region. We will soon begin the construction of a modern swimming complex meeting international standards in Baku. There is a great need for that. There are swimming pools in almost every district now, but Baku is lagging behind in this respect. Our athletes are using the swimming pools inherited from Soviet times. Of course, this is unacceptable. Therefore, there is a great need for a new pool, an Olympic swimming centre. The construction of an Olympic Gymnastics center has commenced. In other words, we are creating the infrastructure for the most representative international sports competitions to be held in Baku, and we will work even faster in the coming years. In short, all these factors put Azerbaijan in a special place on the world’s sporting map. Our place is firm. I am sure we will continue to actively participate in the Olympic movement.
With regard to our participation in the Olympics in the years of independence, we can see a positive trend here too. As in any other field, we have only multiplied our success in this area. In 20 years we have covered a long and successful road, have secured a firm place in the international arena and have been elected to the UN Security Council with the support of 155 countries. There is no other country that has developed economically more rapidly and successfully than Azerbaijan. With regard to social issues, our experience is used an example. The principles of social justice are fully established in Azerbaijan.
A similar picture is observed in the field of sports. As an independent country, we won one medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, three in Sydney, five in Athens and seven in Beijing. So this dynamics is an indicator in itself. These figures lead us to the following logical conclusion: we expect our athletes to do even better and win even more medals at the Summer Olympics in London.
Anything can happen in sport – both victories and defeats. But I am sure and believe that our athletes will proudly represent the country. I want to reiterate that the reason to say so is provided by the successful performances of our athletes in world and European championships. We have a really strong team. This team can achieve great success. For the first time in our history, Azerbaijan will participate at the Olympic Games with such a large team. A country that has over 50 sportsmen in its national Olympic team is considered a sports nation. This time, there are 53 members in our Olympic team. This further demonstrates our athletic potential.
Our athletes have a good chance, good opportunities. All of us, the people of Azerbaijan, wish our athletes every success and look forward to their victories.
I want to touch upon another issue. The solution of everyday problems of our sportsmen has always been in the spotlight. We can say that 20-30 athletes are provided with new apartments by the state and the National Olympic Committee every year. This practice has been in place for 15 years. We started this program in 1997. Were have resolved the everyday problems of the athletes who have achieved major success. This process will be continued. Material provision of sportsmen is also improving and remuneration increasing.
These are all very important issues, important factors.
But I know and I am absolutely sure that the main motivation for our athletes is love of the motherland. Along with all the other factors, most important is the attachment to the motherland and the people. When Azerbaijani sportsmen win medals at Olympic Games, world and European championships, when the national anthem of Azerbaijan is played, every citizen of Azerbaijan loving his country rejoices. The heart of everyone, every patriot is filled with pride. These unforgettable moments are presented to us by athletes. This is why we are grateful to them and support them. Azerbaijani sportsmen can serve as an example of professionalism and moral values. I want the younger generation to grow up in this spirit, so that our heroes of sport are an example for young athletes, both in sports and in life.
With regard to the Azerbaijani state and my work in this area, I have been President of the National Olympic Committee for 15 years. Although as President of Azerbaijan I have a busy schedule and many functions, as President of the National Olympic Committee I am in regular contact with athletes, take interest in their problems and rejoice in their successes. I think it is necessary for the development of both society and sport. I also want to mention that I came to the post of President of the country from the world of sports. In 1997, I was elected President of the National Olympic Committee and in 2003 President of Azerbaijan. So, if I may say so, I represent sportsmen in the government. I will continue paying particular attention to this and any other area. It is no coincidence that 2012 has been declared the Year of Sport in Azerbaijan. This is an indicator in itself. It shows that the state truly supports sport and takes great care of athletes. Athletes are our national asset. Azerbaijan has had and will continue to have a say in sports. I am sure the Summer Olympic Games in London will be another triumph of the Azerbaijani sport.
Dear friends, dear sportsmen, Olympians and Paralympians. I cordially salute you again and wish you every success. Please know that, as any other citizen of Azerbaijan, I will be watching the Games, supporting you and looking forward to your victories. Thank you.