President of Azerbaijan praised organization of Europa League final in Baku

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, president of the National Olympic Committee Ilham Aliyev has attended a ceremony dedicated to sporting results of 2019 at the National Olympic Committee.

The head of state made a speech at the ceremony.

Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

- Dear athletes, dear friends!

At the end of each year, we summarize the results of sports achievements and award athletes, sports professionals and veterans. This year is no exception. We are meeting at the end of the year again and, at the same time, talking about plans for the future, share opinions. Thus, the development of sports in Azerbaijan is becoming sustainable.

Today, Azerbaijan is known in the world as a sports nation. Our sports results, successes, victories, as well as the state support of sports, the implementation of state programs, of course, are highly appreciated by international sports institutions as well. It is no coincidence that the International Olympic Committee, the European Olympic Committee and international federations are giving a high assessment to our work.

Most importantly, sport is being promoted in Azerbaijan and the number of young people interested in doing sports is growing sharply. We are seeing and observing this. We should be grateful for this to our outstanding athletes. In general, I think that the work carried out in the field of sports inspires young people as well. We are pleased that Azerbaijani youths are showing great interest in sports. Of course, the successes of our outstanding athletes raise our sporting glory even more. From this point of view, this year has also been significant. Our athletes have won 775 medals at international sports competitions, including 271 gold. This allows us the opportunity to say that our athletes represented the country at international competitions with dignity. The national anthem of Azerbaijan has been repeatedly played and our flag has been raised in their honor.

Among the sporting achievements, I would like to specifically note the successes of our chess players, because this indicates that our youth is not only physically strong but also has a very high intellectual potential. Our outstanding chess player Teymur Rajabov has won the World Cup. This is a historic event. Our youth chess team (under 16 years of age) has become the winner of the World Chess Olympiad. This confirms that the attention being paid to chess and the opening of chess schools in the regions in recent years are producing results. The opening of chess schools is also included in the program of my numerous trips to the regions. It is possible to say that I have attended the opening of the majority of chess schools operating in our country. Unfortunately, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the purpose of many of our chess schools was changed, their buildings were privatized and shopping facilities were opened there. Of course, this was a serious blow the then leadership dealt to our intellectual potential.

After great leader Heydar Aliyev returned to power, the process of opening chess schools began again and gained large proportions in recent years. There are excellent chess schools in the districts that were opened on my instructions, so young chess players are being raised.

Of course, chess is a very famous and popular sport that enhances the intellectual potential of people and children. It is the young people who are attached to our spiritual values and possess great intellectual potential that will build our future, the successful future of independent Azerbaijan. Therefore, youth must be physically strong. It should have high intellectual potential, be attached to national values, to the homeland. Sport greatly enhances patriotic feelings. Any sports victory, especially won at prestigious international competitions, increases national pride, national spirit in our country. Therefore, sport plays a very important role in the life of every country. This is why great attention has been paid to sports in recent years. After being elected President of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan for the first time in 1997, I took steps aimed at developing sports in Azerbaijan and ensuring its mass scale, and today they are manifesting themselves.

Leading international sports organizations acknowledge Azerbaijan as a sports country. Our greatest achievement in the field of sports is the victory won in the last summer Olympic Games. For the number of medals, Azerbaijan finished in 14th place on a global scale. This is a historic victory and it is not accidental, because at the European Games held in Baku a year earlier, in 2015, Azerbaijan finished in second place in the teams competition. Therefore, our success in the field of sports is by no means accidental. Consistent work is conceptually carried out, sport veterans are treated with attention and care, the state awards them. Sport experts work in excellent conditions, all conditions are created for athletes. Good opportunities have been created for their training, for them to participate in international competitions and to perform well. Currently, we have 45 Olympic sports centers in the regions alone. This year, I attended the opening of a center in the city of Beylagan. Two Olympic sports centers are ready for opening – in Yardimli and Tartar districts. The construction of two more Olympic centers is ongoing – in Goranboy and Neftchala. The design work of the Olympic Center in Yevlakh has been completed and I am sure that its construction will begin in the near future. Thus, having commissioned modern sports facilities, we can say that we have created conditions for athletes in all our districts. This is both a great opportunity for young athletes to train in sports clubs and for residents of cities and regions to do sports.

I would recommend that all our citizens do sports. And not just once a week or a month, but on a regular basis. This is very useful, and everyone will feel it in their lives. I hope we will achieve this, because in all other areas my recommendations are being implemented. You probably remember that during the opening of new hospitals and medical facilities in regional centers and villages, I have repeatedly addressed the same question, recommending that every citizen undergo medical examination once a year to find out what their condition is like. If there are initial manifestations of a disease, people should undergo treatment immediately and be cured. After the establishment of modern medical centers meeting the highest international standards in all our cities and regions, there is more interest in this process. Then we started to do this in an organized manner. For several years now, having carried out extensive educational and awareness work, we have created opportunities for people to undergo free examination. This year, more than 5 million Azerbaijanis underwent free medical examination. If a citizen who has been examined has any kind of a disease, he is immediately prescribed treatment. If there are no opportunities for this in the conditions of the district, they are sent to Baku, so people stay healthy. We have achieved this, and I can say that Azerbaijan is probably one of a handful of countries where the state creates conditions for its citizens to undergo medical examination. I am sure that my recommendation for everyone to do sports, depending on their physical capabilities, will also be implemented. Then everyone will see how useful this is.

I also recommend that our prominent athletes, who have enhanced the country's sporting glory, actively participate in this educational work. The Ministry of Youth and Sports, the National Olympic Committee, sports associations and clubs should contribute to the promotion of sports. As you know, on my initiative, we have long been creating public recreation areas. From this point of view, Baku, which is a city of parks and squares, is already in one of the leading places in the world. Notice how many public recreation areas have been created in Baku recently. All traditional parks left over from the Soviet era have been reconstructed at the highest level. New parks have been created on the site of industrial enterprises that had fallen apart. They were supposed to operate but actually damaged our environment. Following this, on my instruction, the installation of outdoor sports facilities began in the parks. The “Landscaped Yard” program is currently being implemented. Dozens of yards have already been landscaped in Baku. There are sports grounds, including various simulators there. Anyone has the opportunity to do sports outdoors now. Children and adults play football and other games, work out on simulators. This should take on a massive scale. Then our nation will be healthy.

Therefore, turning to prominent athletes, I urge them to engage in this work. Our media should step up their activities in this direction. True, there are programs related to aerobics and other physical activity on some of our television channels. These programs show people what sport they should engage in and what exercises to do at home. But I think that this is not enough. Sport should become widespread. Not because we want to win more medals although this is also important, but to ensure that our nation is healthy, not sick. People doing sports, the athletes present here can see this in their own example. Despite a very busy schedule, I regularly and continuously do sports. There is perhaps no-one in Azerbaijan working more than me, but I find still time for regular sports and see the benefits of this. This is why I recommend it. I am sure that, based on these recommendations of mine, concrete proposals will be submitted in the near future and a broad program related to the promotion of sports will be drawn up.

We now have sports centers in large cities, but not in rural areas. True, some villages are located near cities and children living there, adolescents can attend the available sports centers. But there are remote villages as well. Therefore, it is necessary to draw up a special program for the development of rural sports, to pay attention to this. Children living in remote villages sometimes do not know what to do. There should be sports facilities in the form appropriate for the region, local competitions, district competitions should be held there. Why don’t we have regional competitions? I consider this a big gap, a big major drawback. District competitions should be held. This will benefit the development of sports and contribute to its promotion. Therefore, I am entrusting this to all the bodies dealing with sports.

As far as our future activities are concerned, international sporting events will continue to be held in Azerbaijan. From this point of view, this year has been quite significant. Several world championships, the European championship in gymnastics and other sports, including the European Youth Olympic Festival, have been held. Young men and women, youth from all over Europe came to Baku. I should note that our youth also showed good results, finishing fourth in team standings. Another significant sporting event was held in Baku this year. For the first time in Azerbaijan, the Baku Olympic Stadium hosted the final match of the Europa League. All organizational issues were resolved at the highest level. I want to emphasize this because thousands of foreign spectators and guests were here. The arrival of thousands of guests in a matter of one or two days could have created certain problems for us related to public transport and security. There could also be certain problems associated with the landing of aircraft at the airport, including those performing charter flights. However, all relevant bodies, the organizing committee worked very hard and effectively. According to the general opinion, the Europa League final in Baku is cited as an example on organizational issues. I don’t want to talk about similar events held in other cities, but according to our information, even the final matches of the Champions League are not held at this level in some cities. This was achieved thanks to our discipline, order, organizational issues, the work of volunteers, the joint activities of all relevant bodies.

Next year we are planning to host more prestigious sports competitions, among them four matches of the European Championship in football, the number one sport, including a quarter-final match. The dates are already known, preparatory work has been done, a large audience is expected to arrive from abroad. I am sure that these competitions will also be held at the highest level and Azerbaijan will once again demonstrate its capabilities, including organizational skills.

By tradition, the Formula 1 event will be held. The matches of the European Football Championship coincide with the Formula 1 event. Therefore, all the bodies dealing with organizational matters have an additional responsibility. It is necessary to plan all the work so that these two important events do not interfere with each other. Therefore, all the work should be properly planned on already now.

As for the Formula 1 events, I can say that they bring great benefits to our country. First of all, the cities where Formula 1 competitions are held are either capital or large cities of developed countries. The fact that Baku is among them is a great achievement for us. Secondly, Formula 1 competitions bring great economic dividends to our country and all other cities. If someone says that it harms us, they either don’t know or are trying to intentionally distort these issues. If this harms us, it means that it also harms the almost 20 cities hosting these competitions. Do they also suffer losses? Of course not! Formula 1 events have a huge multiplier effect. Thousands of foreign visitors spend money here. This brings tremendous economic benefits. The first Formula 1 event triggered a massive influx of tourists to Azerbaijan. I remember these dates quite well, because I am informed about the number of tourists every month or every quarter. Thus, after the first competition, the number of tourists increased by 24 percent, the following year by another 22 percent, and then by 5 percent. Finally, this year, in eleven months, it has increased by 11 percent. For the first time in history, more than 3 million tourists have visited Azerbaijan. I instructed relevant authorities to calculate how much money these tourists spent. Of course, we will definitely know this both by means of payment cards and using the expected money spend – there is such a calculation methodology as well. In any case, this amounts to billions of manats. This is a contribution of tourists to the country's economy.

The creation of jobs, the development of the service and transport sectors - all this is connected with tourism. Today, the most developed countries with large industrial and agricultural potential are also competing for tourists. The number of tourists in developed countries, especially in countries where there are many picturesque places, is in tens of millions, this brings them great benefits. In some countries, the tourism sector is a leading sector of the economy. Of course, this is not the case with us. However, Formula 1 competitions are of particular importance for the development of this sector.

There is not much time left until the Summer Olympics. Preparations are in the final stages. I am sure that Azerbaijani athletes will represent our country at the Olympic Games in Tokyo with dignity, our flag will be raised and our anthem played.

I would like to congratulate all our athletes, the sportsmen who have shown good results on these achievements again. I wish the entire sports community of Azerbaijan continued success and new victories. Thank you!