Olympic athletes’ seeing off ceremony held in Baku

Azerbaijani athletes who will participate in the 2012 summer Olympics in London were seen off in Baku on Tuesday in a ceremony attended by President Ilham Aliyev and his spouse Mehriban Aliyeva.

President Aliyev delivered an opening speech at the ceremony, held at the Heydar Aliyev Center. Aliyev noted that more Azerbaijani athletes are taking part in the London tournament than at the previous Olympic Games, expressing hope that they will bring home more medals.

"The sportsmen of each [sports] federation should accomplish success and are trying to make this happen," the president said.

Minister of Youth and Sports Azad Rahimov talked about the preparations for the Olympic Games.

The minister stressed that the number of medals won in Olympic sports has rapidly increased in past years. Thus, on the eve of the Olympic Games in Atlanta (1993-1996), the figure was 71, while that in Sydney (1997-2000) - 146, in Athens (2001-2004) - 262, Beijing (2005-2008) -476, and on the eve of the Olympics in London (2009-2012) - 835.

"As you can see, the number of medals won in Olympic sports increased approximately two-fold on the eve of each Olympics compared to the previous Olympic Games. Especially worth mentioning is that whereas Azerbaijan won 44 licenses and was represented in 11 sports during the Olympic Games in Beijing, it will be represented in 16 sports with 53 licenses in London," Rahimov said.

Azerbaijani athletes will take part in five additional sports -- canoeing, rowing, cycling, gymnastics and fencing -- at the London Summer Olympics.

Whereas at the Olympic Games in Beijing Azerbaijan was represented only by one referee, at the Olympic Games in London, five Azerbaijani referees will participate.

Rahimov said about 15 million manats (around $19.1 million) have been allocated from Azerbaijan's state budget under preparations for the 30th summer Olympic Games, a five-fold surge compared to the amount allotted for the previous tournament in Beijing.

President Aliyev on Tuesday enacted a decree allocating money awards to Azerbaijani athletes who will win medals at the London Olympics. Each gold medalist will receive 400,000 manats (around $510,000) and his coach - 200,000 manats; silver medalists will be awarded 200,000 manats and their coaches - 100,000 manats; and bronze winners - 100,000 manats and their coaches - half of the amount.