Speech by Ilham Aliyev at meeting with Azerbaijani athletes, who won 4th Islamic Solidarity Games their coaches, representatives of Azerbaijan`s sports community

23 may 2017, 10:45

Dear friends!

The Games of Islamic Solidarity "Baku-2017" have finished. Azerbaijan has won yet another victory at these Games. I sincerely congratulate all the athletes, coaches and sport specialists on this brilliant victory and wish you continued victories and success.

Having won 75 gold, 50 silver and 37 bronze medals at these Games, our athletes finished first in the team standings. This is a great historic victory. If we consider that more than 50 countries took part in the Games and delegated the most professional sportsmen here, the significance of this victory increases even more. Of course, we all know quite well that this victory was not accidental because our athletes have already shown their strength in various international competitions, world and European championships, and Olympic Games. Azerbaijan is known as a strong sporting nation on a global scale.

Our recent achievements also suggest that this victory was not accidental. In 2015, Azerbaijani athletes won 56 medals at the European Games and finished second in team standings. At the Summer Olympics last year, the number of medals reached 18. This is the highest figure in the history of our participation in Olympic Games, and Azerbaijan ranked 14th for the number of medals, seventh among European countries and first among Muslim states. So this victory has a very solid foundation and indicates that Azerbaijani sport and the Azerbaijani state are developing. After all, sport brings major victories to the state and the people in developed countries. We are proud of our athletes. I heartily congratulate all our athletes on this great victory again and wish them continued success.

These Games also show that the wise policies pursued in Azerbaijan are bearing fruit in the field of sports as well. The development of sport is one of the priorities of state policy in Azerbaijan. The steps taken in this direction in recent years and our policies have enabled excellent results.

Today, sport holds a special place in the development of public processes in Azerbaijan. Sportsmen enjoy great respect in society. Respect for athletes is evident. Every patriotic citizen of Azerbaijan welcomes the successes of our athletes and feels proud of them. Whenever our flag is raised and the national anthem played, every patriot feels a sense of pride. Our sportsmen delighted our people with the joy of victory over these 10 days. Over these 10 days the Azerbaijani society once again demonstrated unity, solidarity and patriotism. The spectators of the competition welcomed your victories with great enthusiasm, with great love. They celebrated and shared the joy of these victories with you.

Sport holds a special place in the public life of any country, and the development of sport has led to such excellent results today. We are justifiably proud of our victories. At the same time, I am sure that your example and victories of our athletes at these Games will enhance the interest of children in sports in the near future. Every time after a major victory we see that the number of people who want to go in for sport increases. Children and teenagers go to sport clubs. They want to become like you, to be like you. When the younger generation and children see that the state values athletes, rewards them and creates all the conditions for them, then, of course, people will take even more interest in sport. And this will ultimately contribute to the health of Azerbaijani youth and people. Of course, we are proud of the success of our athletes, and this multiplies the glory of our country. At the same time, the promotion of sports is no less important. Sport is about a healthy way of life, and we all really want this approach to prevail in Azerbaijan. This is the case today, and the state policy is carried out exactly in this direction. At the same time, your victories support our policy.

These Games, of course, have been a historic event for our country. I am glad that all the bodies that brought this victory closer have done a wonderful job. Both in previous years and in the run-up to the Games, the National Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, federations, sport associations, clubs, coaches, sport specialists and, of course, athletes worked towards one goal as one team and one family, and made this victory possible . Unlike certain countries, all sport bodies in Azerbaijan work in close cooperation with each other, and I believe that this factor underpins our success. We have created all the conditions for athletes. There are about 50 modern Olympic sport centers in the regions. Baku has the most modern and beautiful sports facilities capable of hosting any international competition.

I want to emphasize the role of the Organizing Committee in the Games. The Organizing Committee led by Mehriban Aliyeva has done a tremendous job. The entire process of preparations was in the spotlight. The Organizing Committee took all the necessary measures up to small details to create good conditions both for athletes and guests. Thousands of foreign guests have come to our country. I appreciate the work of the Organizing Committee, and this is a natural phenomenon because this is already the third prestigious international competition being held under the leadership of Mehriban – the “Eurovision” song contest was held at the highest level in 2012, the European Games were held in 2015. Those were the first Games, there were no standards, and we had only two years to prepare. And this time there were Games of Islamic Solidarity. Of course, this shows that the Organizing Committee has honorably fulfilled its duty. I want to express my gratitude to all members of the Organizing Committee.

At the same time, the Operations Committee worked very hard as well. This Operations Committee also ensured organization of the European Games, and we have been assisted by foreign experts. The opening and closing ceremonies of the Games were magnificent. I am well aware that the Organizing Committee took these two grandiose presentations very seriously. The opening and closing ceremonies show the capabilities of our country and the talent of our people. At the same time, they show that Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani people are committed to their national and religious values, and protect them.

At the opening ceremony, we demonstrated the progressiveness of Islam. We showed that Islam is a religion of science, culture, peace and mercy. At the opening ceremony, we showed talented representatives of the Azerbaijani people. We have demonstrated to the entire Islamic world and to the entire planet the rich ancient history and the culture of Azerbaijan. At the same time, the closing ceremony also showed Azerbaijan as a progressive and modern country. So this unique unity today turns Azerbaijan into an irreplaceable country on a global scale. We are committed to our national and religious values. We protect and will continue to protect them. At the same time, we are open to the world, we are a modern and developing nation. These important factors embody the modern state of Azerbaijan today. We are building a modern state on deep national and spiritual roots, a state every patriot is proud of today.

Our success is underpinned by love of the Motherland. This is the key factor leading our athletes to victory. We have seen how happy our athletes are, and our people rejoice in their success. Over these 10 days we have seen again that our people and society are united. We are united by our beliefs, history and outlook for the future. Azerbaijan is a country that deserves great respect on a global scale. Azerbaijan is a country worthy of great sympathy in the Muslim world.

The Games held in Baku are the third Games of Islamic Solidarity. The first Games took place in Saudi Arabia. The second were held in Indonesia and the third in Azerbaijan. Saudi Arabia is the center of the Muslim world. Indonesia is the largest country in the Muslim world in terms of population. After these two leading countries of the Muslim world, to hold the third Games in Azerbaijan – although they are officially called the fourth Games, we know that the Games are being held only for the third time – is certainly a sign of great respect for and confidence in us.

When communicating with foreign guests during these days, I was very glad that they all seemed to want to convey to me one idea – they spoke of professional and excellent solution of organizational issues with a feeling of great appreciation. This, of course, makes us very happy. The fact that the Games have been held at this level shows the strength and power of our country. It shows that we can organize any international event at the highest level. At the same time, we are applying our own standards. From now on, European Games will be conducted only on the basis of Azerbaijani standards. I know that it will be difficult to achieve these standards.

We have demonstrated a new approach and applied new standards to the Games of Islamic Solidarity. Of course, this is a sign of our respect for the guests and a manifestation of responsibility. At the same time, it shows our overall policy because we want any event held in Azerbaijan to be held at the highest level. Therefore, our country is developing and all foreign visitors to Baku fall in love with our city.

Baku is one of the most beautiful cities of the world today. The number of tourists coming to Azerbaijan is measured by millions. After these Games, the influx of tourists to our country will increase further. Today Azerbaijan is known as a developing, modern, progressive and strong state not only in the Islamic world, but also on the planet, while the victories of athletes multiply our power. This shows even more clearly that Azerbaijan is among the strongest states.

Sports events, Olympic Games, Islamic Games, European Games – these are events where not only athletes but also countries compete with each other. Some bodies and organizations find it difficult to identify leaders in economic and political spheres, in the field of international relations because there must be certain criteria for that. In sports, everything is obvious. Azerbaijan is in the first place. Azerbaijan is the winner.

Of course, these Games will also strengthen Islamic solidarity. On the eve of the Games, I said that our main goal is that athletes and guests representing Muslim countries stick together in Baku, get to know each other, shake hands and strengthen friendship and cooperation. And it so happened. During the competition, we saw that representatives of countries that do not maintain close political relations with each other congratulated each other, rejoiced in each other's success and shook hands.

This is the historic significance of the Games. Azerbaijan has made an additional contribution to this policy by means of sport. Our policy in the Muslim world is to strengthen unity and solidarity, put an end to conflicts and wars between Muslim countries. The Muslim world should demonstrate unity. Only in this case can our peoples can live calmly and safely in the future. Therefore, I am sure that our policy and our contribution to these Games will lead to unification of the Muslim world.

At the same time, Azerbaijan is a country that links the Muslim world with the West. Just imagine: one country and one city hosted European and Islamic Games in the course of just two years. More than 100 countries participate in these Games. No other country can boast of such an achievement. We are justifiably proud to have been able to do this. Our country is known as a reliable partner, a friendly and powerful state both in the western and the Muslim world.

I want to highlight another issue. Our athletes who have achieved success grew up in the period of independence. Many were born in the period of independence and achieved these successes in the years of independence. This once again shows that independence is our greatest asset. Our people have a great history, but at the present stage the history of our independence is not so long. We have been an independent country for only 25 years, but look at the success we have achieved in the field of sports, in economic, social and other spheres. Sport shows the strength and the policy of countries, the power of nations. In Soviet times, we could never even imagine that Azerbaijani athletes would win so many medals, that they would win so many victories in Olympic Games, that they would be first in the Muslim world and second among European countries. All this became possible only in the period of independence. Therefore, this victory once again speaks volumes and shows that our people can successfully develop only in the conditions of independence. The Azerbaijani people can develop rapidly only when our destiny is in our own hands.

We are on the eve of the Independence Day. In a few days we will celebrate the Republic Day. This victory, of course, is yet another contribution to our independence and to its strengthening.

At the same time, we are on the eve of the blessed month of Ramadan. I think that it is natural that the Games of Islamic Solidarity have ended on the eve of the Ramadan holiday, and they have ended with a big victory for Azerbaijan. This is no coincidence. It is natural.

Going back to the beginning of my speech, let me say that all these victories were given to us by athletes. Therefore, I once again congratulate and hug you. I wish you continued victories and successes