By Nigar Orujova
The closing ceremony of the first European Games in Baku filled joy into the hearts of Azerbaijani citizens, said Azad Rahimov, the Youth and Sports Minister at the final press conference dedicated to the Games on June 29.
The inaugural European Games Baku 2015 that started on June 12, ended after 17 days of elite sports with a fantastic closing ceremony at the National Olympic Stadium on June 28.
“It showed that Azerbaijani people want to be closer to the world,” he said. “The ceremony also showed Europe’s closeness to Baku and Baku’s closeness to Europe.”
"I did not expect that our team could rank second in the overall team standings,” he said. “We have 56 medals. Our athletes have contributed to the history of the country’s sports.”
Rahimov expects that Azerbaijan will host many major sporting events, which would please and unite people.
"The strongest athletes participated in the European Games,” he said. “Some 12 of 16 (Olympic) kinds of sports were qualifying in nature. This is a great opportunity for the athletes. Nobody wants to lose it. The strongest athletes participated in these 12 kinds of sports."
More than 100 Olympic and world champions participated in the European Games.
About 100 million manats had been allocated to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Baku 2015 European Games, he noted.
"However, I think that in the final calculation of the total expenditure, this amount will be lower. The budget of the Baku 2015 is 960 million manats. And we have not gone beyond that amount," said the minister.
Rahimov went on to add that 1,248 media representatives were accredited to cover the Games, 665 of which were local journalists, and 583 representing foreign media.
Everyday, the media area was attended by 4,859 people, the minister said, adding that the event was broadcasted on 61 channels in 145 countries.
"The opening ceremony was shown in 120 countries," he added.
Simon Clegg, Baku 2015’s chief operating officer, in turn, said that the success of Azerbaijan in the European Games encouraged the Operations Committee of the European Games.
He noted the success of the first European Games was marked by Azerbaijan’s responsible attitude toward them.
"At the same time, there were more than 12,500 volunteers and flame keepers. It would be impossible to hold the Games without their support. The opening ceremony of the Games was grandiose, and it has become possible thanks to the work done by Azerbaijan," Clegg stressed.
Azerbaijan not only held the competitions and the opening and closing ceremonies successfully, but it also showed an uncommon thirst for victory, winning second place in the overall ranking.
Azerbaijan will perform more successfully at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro than at previous Olympics, First Vice-President of the National Olympic Committee Chingiz Huseynzade told journalists on June 29.
"Of course, we are expecting good results at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. It must be remembered that if the European Games involved only European countries, the Olympic Games include all countries. The European Games is a big impetus for the development of our sport. I hope that Azerbaijan's participation in the Games in Rio will be more successful than in other Olympics. They have been successful in the past, London Olympics was also successful for us. I hope that this also will be successful," said Huseynzade.
He went on to add that sport has always been thoroughly developed in Azerbaijan.
"For example, today we celebrate the advances in gymnastics and fencing. But if you look back at history, Azerbaijan has the champions in these sports. Events of the 90s of the last century have affected the development of sports. Today we have regained our full potential. Azerbaijan is a strong state that can have it’s say in sports," said Huseynzade.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
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