Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the meeting with Azerbaijani athletes who excelled during the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games

22 August 2022, 11:46
Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the meeting with Azerbaijani athletes who excelled during the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games

- Dear friends, dear athletes!

You returned to your homeland from Konya a few days ago and have done so with a great victory. You have once again raised the sporting glory of our country. I want to congratulate you on this occasion from the bottom of my heart and express my gratitude for your achievements. I am sure that the people of Azerbaijan are proud of you because you have once again shown the whole world that Azerbaijan is a sports nation and Azerbaijani athletes are distinguished for their strength.

Finishing fourth in the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games is a tremendous achievement. This achievement shows that our previous successes were not accidental. Our team won first place in the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku five years ago. And that was also natural because home soil always provides extra support to athletes. Due to very close competition, we finished the Games in fourth place. Let me also say that the strongest athletes in the Games represented their countries. Our athletes have once again shown the strength of our country by winning 99 medals, 29 of which are gold.

I should also note that it is very gratifying that our athletes won medals in a total of 19 sports. This shows that many types of sports are developing well in our country. Of course, coming first are wrestlers, who have won 23 medals, including eight gold. And this is also natural because wrestling is our national sport, and we have traditionally been prominent in wrestling. Coming second is the representatives of gymnastics. Our athletes have won 17 medals in three types of gymnastics, including eight gold. In third place are non-Olympic sports – kickboxing athletes. The number of medals they have won is 15, and three are gold. So, this is a considerable achievement because more than 50 countries participated in these Games and, as I said earlier, the competition was very intense.

I told you in our meeting on the opening day of the Games in Konya that I was confident that you would represent our country with dignity. I am glad that this is precisely what happened. Once again, not only the entire Muslim world but also the whole world saw the power of our athletes. Every time our flag is raised and our national anthem is played, every citizen of Azerbaijan feels rightfully proud. Every single victory amplifies our glory even more. I told you during the meeting in Konya that you had additional responsibility because you would be representing a winning country in the Games. This is a factor of pride, but at the same time, it is a great responsibility. Realizing this responsibility, you represented our country with dignity. Unfortunately, the judges were sometimes unfair and biased against you. I watched the competitions as much as possible and saw how much injustice was shown towards our athletes. Despite that, you tried to prove your strength by taking the right steps – both yourself and your coaches – and succeeded.

The Games were held in our brotherly country, and our athletes felt comfortable. Every athlete felt absolutely at home. At the opening ceremony, we also witnessed our Turkish brothers warmly greet our athletes when Team Azerbaijan entered the stadium. It looked as though our team was entering a stadium in Baku. This shows again how interconnected our nations are. It shows that not only the presidents are brothers – our nations and athletes are brothers too. At the stadium, tens of thousands of spectators welcomed Team Azerbaijan as their home team.

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely congratulate Turkiye and its athletes on the high-level organization of the Games and finishing first in the team standings. I must also say that hosting the Games requires rigorous organizational efforts. I remember having to address many organizational matters as we were preparing to host the 2017 Games. Not every country can host the Games at this level. Although the Konya Games are officially considered the Fifth Islamic Solidarity Games, the Games have been held only four times. The first Games were held in Saudi Arabia, the second in Indonesia, the third in Azerbaijan and the fourth in Turkiye. Officially though, these have been the Fifth Solidarity Games. So, I want to say that hosting the Games is not an easy task, and the Turkish side certainly deserves a lot of praise.

The Games are now in the past. I am sure that our athletes will be proud to carry these medals. But we must look to the future now and determine what other steps should be taken to develop sports in Azerbaijan.

You are probably aware that there have been changes in several federations recently. And this is quite natural. It was inevitable because I could see that there was stagnation in some federations, results were not achieved, and some of our athletes were denied the opportunity to join international competitions. Relevant international sports bodies have sanctioned them and the federations as a whole, sometimes in a justified and sometimes in an unjustified manner. Unfortunately, these incidents took place, and we saw that a new impetus was needed. I am sure that the recent changes in federations and, at the same time, in the Ministry of Youth and Sports are highly appreciated by athletes and the sporting community because the results are apparent. The institutions responsible for sports should always be together with the athletes; they should know every athlete and deal with their problems. I can already see that the changes made are producing and will continue to produce results. The critical matter is that the sporting community of Azerbaijan should work towards one goal. It has always been a top priority that the National Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, federations, clubs and the entire sporting community should work towards one goal as a team and be united. I have been President of the National Olympic Committee since 1997 and know what processes are taking place in which countries. In many cases, there is no unity between the bodies responsible for sports. There are contradictions between them. We have this unity, and I think this is one of the main prerequisites of our success.

Of course, it is not an easy task to train professional athletes. Coaches and sports experts work hard. The selection process must be appropriate. There are great talents in our regions – children and teenagers; you need to find them and invite them to sports. I am sure today's attitude towards sports in Azerbaijan, especially athletes, will bring young people and children to sports clubs. There are conditions for sports; about 50 Olympic sports centers operate in the regions alone. We have hosted the European Games and world championships in Baku. In other words, all opportunities are available, and it is necessary to select the kids coming to sports clubs and train them both as strong athletes and decent citizens. This is also a critical issue. I am pleased that our athletes, those who represent our country in the world with dignity, are known for exemplary behavior in their day-to-day life. This is very important - humility, devotion to the Motherland, national values, physical strength, and spiritual strength. Because physical strength, as they say, strengthens spiritual strength.

After the Games, of course, there should be a rest period, but it should not be too long because the Summer Olympic Games are coming up, and there is not much time left, only two years. This is why we need to start training in the next few months. After that, qualifying tournaments will start, and our team will be selected. I believe that the primary goal of all sports agencies should be to prepare for the Summer Olympic Games. I am sure that all sports organizations know and understand their responsibility here because we have to represent our country at the Summer Olympic Games with dignity.

I congratulate you again from the bottom of my heart – the entire team, the athletes who won medals and those who did not. Let me also tell them they should not feel sorry; there are still many competitions in the future. Simply put, love of the Motherland, commitment to one's profession, tireless work and preparation are necessary. Because without preparation, there is no result – this is the case in politics, sports, and life. You have once again raised the glory of Azerbaijan, and just as our flag is flying in Karabakh and Zangezur today, it also flies in sports arenas, and I am sure it will fly forever. I congratulate you once again.