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First European Games is the peak of Azerbaijan`s development

Interview with  chair of the Milli Majlis Social Policy Committee, member of YAP Political Council Hadi Rajabli

Q: Azerbaijan will host the inaugural European Games this June. These Games are considered to be of the same value as Olympic Games. In general, we would like you to provide an insight into the history of Olympic movement…

A: According to historical records, the first ancient Olympic Games can be traced back to 776 BC. The ancient Olympic Games were initially a one-day event until 684 BC, when they were extended to three days. In the 5th century B.C., the Games were extended again to cover five days.

The ancient Games included running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, pankration and equestrian events.

Olympic Games became a symbol of peace

Each Olympiad is unique, but they all have a common purpose: to bring nations together in the spirit of competition. The Olympic Games are rich in symbols and traditions that represent cooperation, teamwork, and individual athleticism. The Games were held every Olympiad, which is a period of four years.

The Games originally consisted of only a foot race called a stade, which was a short sprint the length of the Olympic stadium. Later, more events like chariot races, wrestling, boxing, and horse racing were added. Only male athletes were allowed to compete in the games, and only men were allowed to attend. Women, as well as slaves and criminals, were forbidden.

The ancient Olympic Games were also a time for religious and artistic celebration. Artists gathered to display their work, and religious groups made offerings to the gods. Politicians from each city-state used the games to make political friendships and share new of political events.

The Games continued until 393 C.E., when Theodosius, a Christian emperor, decreed that all non-Christian ritual be banned, including the Olympic Games.

The modern Olympic Games began with only summer sports, and included events like track and field, swimming, gymnastics, and cycling. Inspired by the ancient Olympic Games, the modern Olympic Games serve a similar purpose. Athletes from countries around the world come together to show cooperation, fair competition, and respect toward other countries.

Q: What can you say of the development of sport in Azerbaijan?

A: Policy of development of sports in Azerbaijan was founded by national leader Heydar Aliyev This policy saw sport acquire mass popularity and promoted Azerbaijan on the international sports scene.

The years of independence marked a turning point in the history of the development of sport in the country. He ordered the establishment of the ministry of youth and sport, and also launched the country`s sport policy

Azerbaijan is now known as a sporting nation in the world

Q: How is sport developing in the country? What is Azerbaijan`s potential in the field of sport?

A: Sports policy of the national leader is now being successfully continued by president of the National Olympic Committee, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.

In the last 10 years Azerbaijan has successfully hosted nearly 300 international sports events, including European and world championships. This increased the international Olympic family`s confidence in Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani government has done a lot to create sport-of-the-art sports infrastructure in the country. The number of sports facilities has increased 12 percent to reach 10,000. Some 40 Olympic sports complexes, three swimming pools, five stadiums, 12 chess schools have been built. Azerbaijan is one of the leader European sports countries that have sports infrastructure.

As an independent country Azerbaijani debuted at the Olympic Games in 1996 when we claimed just one medal. In 2000, we won three, in 2004, five, in 2008 seven, and in 2012, 10 medals. In the overall table of the London Summer Olympic Games Azerbaijan ranked 30th.And we ranked 24th in the medal table. Azerbaijan ranked 15 among European countries, and third among the Muslim countries. This is really a historical and remarkable achievement.

Q: Preparations for the European Games are about to complete. What can you say of this?

A: In less than five months Baku will host the first European Games. These are the Games which have never been held. Unlike other continental Games, European Games have never been held, and we are very grateful to European Olympic family for making a decision to have these Games in Azerbaijan. I think one of the reasons for making a decision to have these Games in Baku is achievements of our athletes. Azerbaijan, during the years of independence, showed itself also as a country with traditions in sport. Our success at the last London Olympic Games was very important for our people. We got 10 medals, two of them were gold. And we were ranked number 30 in the world, and number 15 among the European countries. We are in the final stage of preparation. The development of Azerbaijan`s sport infrastructure has been very important for us during the last years. We have experience in holding European and world championships. Azerbaijan has hosted numerous such events. But, of course, this year`s European Games will be the highest-class sporting event for us. Construction work including the National Gymnastics Arena, Baku Shooting Centre, the Baku Main Stadium and other construction and renovation work around our existing sports infrastructure continue at pace and we are confident they will be delivered on time and on budget. We have attached particular importance to the creation of the Athletes Village which will be one of the best facilities to accommodate and host athletes in sports history. The Baku 2015 Games will leave a great legacy of new venues, infrastructure and inspiration for the communities and youth of Azerbaijan and Europe as a whole. I believe that we will set a benchmark for the organization of these Games. Anti-Azerbaijani campaign is aimed at undermining the country`s independent policy

Q: Some circles are pursuing a smear campaign against the country on the eve of the games. What do you think of it?
A: A smear campaign that is being carried out against Azerbaijan in the modern system of international relations is very shameful. It is very regrettable that such a campaign is underway against our Azerbaijan at a time our country has undertaken to be the first country in history to host the European Games. But today, on the eve of the European Games, a campaign is being carried out against us. Such a campaign against a rapidly-developing country that has taken crucial steps toward building democracy and has turned into the leader in the region is not going to honor anyone.

Some foreign media outlets, non-governmental organizations and certain circles inside the country are trying to stain the Games and Azerbaijan’s image. However, these attempts have yielded no results so far. Now again they started to say same groundless words with no political, cultural and legal background. But Azerbaijan’s progress is obvious. We are preparing for the First European Games in an excellent manner.

Q: What will the Games give Azerbaijan?

A: Azerbaijan`s international relations have been enhancing and strengthening in the past few years. Azerbaijan is an active member of the International Olympic Committee and European Olympic Committees. Supported by the International Olympic Federation, Azerbaijan is hosting numerous international events, including European and world championships and other high-profile tournaments both in Olympic and non-Olympic sports.

The Games will contribute to the development of all areas of life in the country. Everything that is built, repaired and redeveloped is done for the people of Azerbaijan. The Games will stimulate the improvement of tourism industry.