Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the meeting with athletes who competed in 15th Summer Paralympic Games

23 september 2016, 10:15

Paralympic Games ended in Rio several days ago. Our team has returned home. I have invited you today to congratulate. Our team has performed very well. We were represented at the Games by 24 athletes and won 11 medals. Of these, one is gold, eight silver and two bronze medals. This is a very good result. This shows again that our Paralympians are among the strongest teams.

As you know, a very good result in Rio was also shown by our Olympic team, which won 18 medals. In both Olympic and Paralympic Games, Azerbaijani sportsmen won 29 medals. This once again shows that Azerbaijan is a strong sports nation. Sport in Azerbaijan is developing fast, and our athletes delight us in all prestigious international competitions.

As you know, a lot of attention is paid to the development of sport. This is one of the main priorities of our policy. The strength of every state, among other things, is reflected by its sporting potential and achievements in sports. In Azerbaijan, as is the case in all other areas, there is great development in sport. I am glad that the number of those interested in sports is growing. Athletes in Azerbaijan are worthy of great respect, and the public appreciates their work.

The government always looks after the athletes well. Our athletes exhibit exemplary behavior both in sporting events and in everyday life. Sport is an activity where the strongest should win. Justice must always prevail here. Sometimes we see unfair decisions in some competitions, including those with respect to our athletes. Of course, we are worried and frustrated about that. Despite this, Azerbaijan has repeatedly proved in various international competitions that we are really a strong sports nation, we have strong athletes who always hold high the glory of Azerbaijan.

We have taken comprehensive measures to develop sports. As a result, we show good results in European and world championships, Olympic and Paralympic Games. The training process is properly organized. At the same time, sports infrastructure is being created. There are more than 40 Olympic centers in our regions. Several more Olympic centers are under construction, and they will be continued next year. A special Olympic center was established for Paralympians in 2008, where our athletes can train. Other infrastructure is being put in place. There are sports facilities in Baku capable of hosting international competitions at the highest level. The world saw this during the European Games last year. By the way, the fact that European Game were held in Azerbaijan also reflects our athletic potential because when this decision was made, the European Olympic Committee also took into account our athletic potential. Of course, both our country and the city of Baku were well prepared to host these Games, and all the guests and thousands of athletes who came to Baku saw this with their own eyes. Of course, this was also a result of the successes Azerbaijan has achieved in the field of sports. Our team won a historic victory, finishing in second place among 50 national Olympic teams. Paralympians delighted us too.

Necessary steps are being taken to develop our country as a whole. The popularization of our country in the world, of course, is directly associated with this development, and sport plays a special role in that. For example, the European Games attracted the attention of the whole of Europe to Azerbaijan. The audience of Formula-1, which was held in Baku this year, is 500 million people. These 500 million people saw that Baku is capable of hosting this competition. At the same time, they saw the beauty of Baku, the life of our city and its people, and, of course, it was a surprise for many. They could not imagine that Azerbaijan has achieved such development and that Baku has become one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

This year, Baku also hosted the Chess Olympiad. For the number of participating teams, it was a record result. According to the leaders of the International Chess Federation, it was the best Chess Olympiad in terms of organization. In other words, we have extensive experience in this area, all organizational issues are addressed at a high level, and Azerbaijan is recognized worldwide as a strong state and sports nation. By winning medals, our athletes enhance our sports glory. The international competitions conducted in Baku exhibit Azerbaijan in the world as a beautiful, developed and progressive country.

International competitions will continue to be held in our country. Next year, we will host the Islamic Solidarity Games. Last year we brought together European athletes in Azerbaijan, while next year we will gather Muslim athletes in Baku. This demonstrates the development of our country and our intentions. I am convinced that sport makes a very significant contribution to the development of relations between peoples and religions. By conducting sports competitions, our country pursues this objective too.

Sport has a very positive impact on society. Sport plays an important role in educating the younger generation in the spirit of patriotism. Our younger generation, children and teenagers, look up on you and learn how to worthily represent our state and raise our flag. Our Paralympians raised our flag in Rio11 times. The younger generation should also be knowledgeable, professional and, at the same time, patriotic. After all, patriotism is the foundation of our statehood.

This year we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the restoration of our independence. The vast majority of these years are glorious. We are proud to have risen to this level. The younger generation should preserve these values in the future, so that our development is sustainable and Azerbaijan is always on top as an independent country. Therefore, your excellent performance in Rio is also a great example for young people. I am sure that after these events, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the influx of people to our sport clubs will further increase.

I sincerely congratulate you once again and express my gratitude. The successful athletes will receive state awards. Let’s move on to the awards ceremony now.