By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijani athletes who won the First European Games, their coaches, representatives of Azerbaijan’s sports community, and foreign partners who contributed to the organization of the Games, met in Baku on June 29.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady and Chairperson of the Baku 2015 First European Games Organizing Committee Mehriban Aliyeva, and their family members attended the ceremony.
The event started off with showing highlights from the opening and closing ceremonies of the First European Games, the most memorable moments of the competitions, as well as performance of the Azerbaijani athletes.
Addressing the meeting, the Head of State congratulated everyone on the successful completion of the first European Games in Baku.
“The first European Games is a historic event for our country and Europe. It is historic for our country because until now there were no international sports competitions of such a level in Azerbaijan. Europe, in contrast to other continents, never carried out continental Games,” he said.
He expressed gratitude to the president of the European Olympic Committees Patrick Hickey, who initiated the European Games, and all who participated in hosting the event. The president went on to talk about the work carried out in Baku in a short period of time.
President Aliyev also noted the role of the Organizing Committee of the Baku 2015 European Games and its professionals, who brought their experience to Azerbaijan.
He especially appreciated the great work of Mehriban Aliyeva, who led the Organizing Committee. “She has made an enormous contribution to the Games.”
The Head of State stressed the work carried out by the volunteers of the Baku 2015. “Volunteers showed once again that our country has a huge potential, human capital.”
About 20,000 volunteers mostly from Azerbaijan participated in coordinating the logistics of the Games.
“These Games allowed us to show off. Some forces, which had been negatively tuned towards us, sometimes even reproached us that Azerbaijan—by conducting the Games—wants to show itself. It is natural. Of course, every country wants to show itself. Developed countries, which have repeatedly carried out activities of this level, also wanted to show themselves. There is nothing reprehensible. Yes, we have a lot that we can show. We showed the world Azerbaijan as a modern, dynamic, democratic, developing nation and state, tied to their culture and history,” he stressed.
Aliyev especially stressed the achievements of the Azerbaijani athletes. There were different assumptions about the rank our team will take, he said, but perhaps no one believed that Azerbaijan would rank second place.
“This is a historic victory, the victory of the Azerbaijani sport, and the Azerbaijani state,” he said.
“All of us probably more than once experienced the touching feeling of these days. We all have had such memorable moments that are difficult to describe in words. The joy of victory, pride, strength, courage of our athletes, the unity of the people –we will never forget all this,” he stressed.
President Aliyev noted that sport shows the overall development of any country and the European Games in Baku were clear proof of that.
“We will continue to develop successfully. I have no doubt in this. Azerbaijan will follow the path of development. In the future, we expect great success and victory. I wish the entire Azerbaijani people further successes, new victories,” he stressed.
Then there was an awards ceremony for persons making special contributions to helping host the European Games Baku 2015, as well as award winning athletes, coaches, presidents of sports federations.
Addressing the event, Chief Operating Officer of the BEGOC Simon Clegg and Azerbaijan’s Youth and Sports Minister Azad Rahimov, thanked the head of state for his active support for the excellent organization of the Games.
Moreover, President Aliyev ordered to confer the Heydar Aliyev order upon Mehriban Aliyeva for her fruitful activity in developing culture, education, healthcare and sports in Azerbaijan, ensuring the extensive international promotion of the cultural heritage of the people of the country, and her large contribution to the organization of the First European Games.
Mehriban Aliyeva addressed the event, saying Azerbaijan once again demonstrated the world its power, greatness, and unity.
She said during these 17-day competitions, “the Azerbaijani people have been a team, and you, the glorious captain of this team. In this case, of course, it was impossible to lose.”
“To serve our Motherland, native Azerbaijan is the greatest honor, and to live, seeing the results of this service is the greatest happiness,” the first lady stressed.
Then the ceremony featured footage highlighting the victories of the Azerbaijani athletes in the First European Games, showing the head of state presenting medals to the winning Azerbaijani athletes.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
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