Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the ceremony held at the National Olympic Committee to award sportsmen and coaches

27 december 2010, 20:30

Dear friends!

Let me salute you all and sincerely congratulate all sportsmen and sports specialists on the victories won in 2010.

Our year-end meetings have become a good tradition. We meet at the close of every year to discuss its outcomes, reward our sportsmen and representatives of the sporting community with various bonuses and apartments. I do believe that this wonderful tradition must be continued and we must celebrate the successes of our athletes every year.

Of course, I also meet with sportsmen during the year, especially with those winning prestigious international competitions. I am trying to pay attention to sports. The development of sports in Azerbaijan is already a reality and it is very gratifying that these successes increase every year. A new generation is growing, our athletes represent our country in international competitions with dignity. This shows that our successes are not fortuitous, they are the result of a carefully thought-out policy. These successes have been achieved through collective work of all organizations dealing with sports.

Azerbaijan is recognized as a sporting nation in the world, our successes are well-known. Azerbaijan is taking an active part in the International Olympic Movement and we enjoy great respect. It has already become a tradition to host international competitions in our country. Numerous world, European championships and other competitions are conducted in Azerbaijan every year, and the opportunities we have enable proper organization of these tournaments.

The development of sports manifests itself in many ways, but the best measure is certainly the number of medals won. Our sportsmen have won 675 medals in different international competitions this year. Of these, 206 were won in Olympic sports. Our sportsmen represent Azerbaijan in different Olympic and non-Olympic sports with honor and dignity.

I am very pleased that our young athletes did extremely well in the First Youth Olympics by finishing 11th among 204 countries and becoming best among Muslim states. This shows again that the development of sport in Azerbaijan is of systematic nature. The success of our young athletes demonstrates that these youngsters will successfully represent Azerbaijan in world championships and Olympic Games several years later. Our main goal is to be a success in Olympic Games. We do not limit our work to sports only. To be successful, all young people, including sportsmen, must have a strong will, patriotic spirit and love of the motherland. We are trying to disclose these noble concepts to our youngsters. I value the work being done in Azerbaijan in this regard quite highly.

Azerbaijani society and its important component, the youth, are successfully engaged in various spheres of life for the development of our country. Sport is an area where results may be more evident. A victory won in sport is considered a victory of the country. It is not by chance that countries compete with each other at the Olympic Games and other competitions. Therefore, the fact that our young men have left behind major sporting nations on a global scale and finished 11th is a historic event. I am very glad that the international sporting community is highly interested in the processes associated with sports in Azerbaijan and our successes are recognized.

In 2010, along with these successes, important steps were traditionally taken to strengthen the material and technical foundation of sport. This year we have commissioned four Olympic sports centers. Modern sports facilities have been launched in Goychay, Agdash Balakan and Goradiz. A sports training center has been commissioned in the village Mushfigabad. In Mingachevir, the international rowing center has been reopened at a higher level of quality. As you may know, the Mingachevir Olympic rowing base used to serve athletes of the Soviet Union. The unique climatic conditions of the base attracted everyone involved in rowing. For many years the base remained in disrepair, we looked for various ways of restoring it, including foreign support. In the end, the Azerbaijani state has renovated the base at its own expense. In fact, we have re-created it. There is a wonderful hotel, sports facilities, a swimming pool, a gym, a beautiful park there. This has been done not only to develop rowing. It is also an international rowing base, a beautiful and functional tourist destination. Of course, these opportunities should first of all benefit our own athletes. I should note that we have made great strides in this so far untraditional sport for us. The base is also open to athletes from other countries. This will contribute a lot to the development of Mingachevir and attract investment. Besides, the construction of a regional rowing base is indeed a major event.

In 2011, this construction and installation work will be continued. Construction of 11 Olympic centers is on the agenda. Some of them will be launched next year. This program is being consistently implemented. Let me indicate that the structures responsible for sports – the Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, federations, sports associations and clubs – have worked actively and in a coordinated manner this year. We all serve one goal, which is to rapidly develop sport in Azerbaijan, to increase our sporting successes, to enhance state care for athletes, to remember sports veterans. The work and measures taken in all these areas in recent years have made the present realities possible.

We have already, in the truest sense of the word, established ourselves in the field of sports not only in this region and in Europe but also globally. This further reinforces our country, plays a positive role in bringing full information about Azerbaijan to the world public. At times, the present development of Azerbaijan, our realities and developments unfolding in our country, the creative work remain a mystery for the world community. In some cases, the information about Azerbaijan published in the international media either does not reflect reality or is biased. Perhaps this is why those visiting Azerbaijan and Baku for the first time and seeing the beauty of Baku and the creative work under way in our city and country cannot conceal their genuine surprise. Some come to Baku with completely different thoughts. But the processes ongoing here, the surrounding beauty certainly produce a very strong impression. We must also strive to ensure that information about us reflects reality. The best way of doing that is to invite people to Azerbaijan. The infrastructure being created in the country today, nice hotels, recreation centers and airports have a positive influence on tourism development. The more people visit Azerbaijan, the better the world is informed about our country. The hosting of sporting competitions also pursues this goal. At the same time, athletes and young people stay in touch and meet with each other. This has a positive effect on ethnic relations and relations between civilizations. Azerbaijan is making a valuable contribution to the global community in this area too. The high degree of religious and ethnic tolerance in Azerbaijan are duly appreciated by the international community. It is not by chance that our country is hosting numerous international events on the subject. Sport plays a key role in all these affairs, we in Azerbaijan have long realized that. Achievements in sport should not be measured only by the number of medals won. Sport is an important factor in public and political life. The role of sport in international relations is constantly growing, and we can see that in daily life.

Today, Azerbaijani sport fully meets the creative processes under way in the country. I can say that for several years, the development of sport in Azerbaijan was ahead of the development in any other sphere. But today, Azerbaijan’s economic development, social issues, the creative work, the processes of modernization and the fact that we are turning into a powerful regional state add up to the achievements in the sports. We want Azerbaijan to become even stronger. We want the most advanced and progressive trends that are acceptable to our people to be firmly established in Azerbaijan. We want Azerbaijan as a modern state to expand its capabilities so that our standing in the world becomes stronger, the economic, political and social reforms in the country proceed even more intensely, and we can see all that. All international economic entities observe the developments in Azerbaijan with great interest. Azerbaijan is at the forefront of the ratings of all prestigious international organizations – both in terms of economic competitiveness, development of information and communication technologies, human development and sports. We are successfully and confidently moving forward in all areas.

I am confident that 2011 will be successful for the continuation of these remarkable events, including the field of sports. 2011 will be crucial in preparation for the summer Olympic Games of 2012. There will be numerous license tournaments, this is the last year in preparation for the Olympics. Of course, we must consider this factor. In 2011, we must further intensify our efforts. 2011 is as important to us as was 2009 – the year after the Olympics. Of course, the Olympics are the most important event in a certain stage in sports. At the same time, all sports organizations try to achieve our goal in their daily activities.

I am confident that next year will also be successful for our sport. Our athletes and young people will properly represent the country in the world, and we will meet with the athletes to celebrate their victories. I am sure that we will successfully complete 2011 too.

Dear friends, dear athletes. I want to once again cordially congratulate you on the victories won in 2010. I want to reiterate that all the processes occurring in our country, including sports, are the focus of my attention. As you know, I have a special attitude towards sport. For the past 13 years I have been president of the Olympic Committee. I try and I will continue to try to address the problems of athletes, take additional measures to develop sports and take the necessary steps to create the sports infrastructure. 2011 will be a significant in this area, as next year we will lay the foundation of a beautiful Olympic stadium in Baku. The project is ready and a place has been allocated. I think that Baku, the capital of such a sporting nation as Azerbaijan, should have a new Olympic stadium equipped to modern standards. 

Once again I heartily congratulate you on your victories and also on the upcoming holidays - New Year and the Day of Solidarity of Azerbaijanis of the world. I wish you all further new successes. Thank you.