Azerbaijan should enter top ten at Baku 2015, minister says

By: Nigar Orujova

Azerbaijan has always placed in the top ten among European teams at sporting events. The main purpose for the first European Games in Baku is to stay in this top ten.

The statement came from Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s Youth and Sports Minister, at a press conference dedicated to the first European Games in Baku.

The minister said that it is incorrect to predict the outcome of such a grand event.

“The intensity of the competition, the number of participating countries, the reigning atmosphere, and excitement at times excluded the Olympic and world champions from the competitions. However, sometimes an inexperienced athlete won a gold medal. Our advantage is that, we as the owners of these Games, did not have to pass qualifying competitions.”

“Azerbaijani sportsmen will participate in competitions in all sports, which give us a chance to win medals in all competitions. The support of local audience also creates great opportunities for us,” he stressed.

The historic event Baku 2015 European Games started on June 12 with water sports. Over the next 17 days, the Games will present 20 sports competitions, 12 of which are licensed for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Discussing the budget of the European Games, the minister said that the budget was initially set at 960 million manats, but it has come to exceed a little over one billion manats.

Rahimov said that if any auditing company in the world proves that even one extra manat was spent from the budget of his ministry, he would be ready to resign.The minister made the remark answering a question about possible corruption during preparations for the Games.

He said Azerbaijan’s budget for sports each year stands at about 10 million manats, and these funds are directed to pay for participation in various sports competitions, the purchase of sports equipment, and other purposes.

Rahimov also noted that the European Games should be a celebration of friendship and solidarity.

“Sport is peace, it brings people together,” he said. “No organization, trying to politicize sport, will achieve their goals.”

The minister also noted that the main goal is to bring up a healthy young generation.

Rahimov went on to add that despite the Armenian occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani lands, Armenian athletes participated in a number of sports events in Azerbaijan.

It is not the first time an Armenian delegation has arrived in Baku, he said.

Rahimov stated that the Armenian athletes participated in the World Wrestling Championships and World Boxing Championships among youth, both of which were held in Baku.

“In addition, representatives of Armenia also participated in different cultural, political and civil society activities in Azerbaijan. The First European Games in Baku will be attended by 25 representatives of Armenia,” the minister said.

Rahimov also noted that, according to the rules, conditions should be created such that the representatives of each country could take part in the European Games. “Earlier in the negotiations with Armenia, we studied the position of the opposite side. At the present, there is no need of this, now only a letter of guarantee is written. This is enough for athletes to take part in competitions. It is a guarantee of security,” Rahimov said.

The minister added that Azerbaijan would host Formula 1 and the Chess Olympiad in 2016.

“The team of Armenia will arrive in the country to participate in the Chess Olympiad. Moreover, Baku will host the championship in sailing, and in 2017, the Islamic Solidarity Games, but representatives of Armenia will not participate in these events. Participation of Armenian representatives in the UEFA European Championship in 2020 will depend on the performance of the team,” he said.

Armenia occupied over 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and its seven adjacent regions, after laying territorial claims against its South Caucasus neighbor. This led to a brutal war in the early 1990s that resulted in the killing of over 20,000 Azerbaijanis. 4,866 people went missing and over 100,000 were wounded, while 50,000 were made disabled.

Long-standing efforts by U.S, Russian and French mediators have been largely fruitless so far. Armenia continues the occupation in defiance of four UN Security Council resolutions calling for immediate and unconditional withdrawal.