Azerbaijani President and First Lady attend opening of Olympic Games in Sochi
By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his spouse Mehriban Aliyeva attended the opening ceremony of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, on February 7.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the participants and spectators of the Olympic Games, and the Russian flag was raised at the ceremony, followed by the traditional parade of nations.
Azerbaijan marched fourth, with Patrick Brahner carrying the country's flag. President Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva greeted the Azerbaijani athletes.
The competition brings together 2,871 athletes from 88 National Olympic Committees, who are competing for 98 gold medals in 16 days of competition, which will be closed on February 23.
Four athletes will compete for Azerbaijan as the country participates in its fifth Winter Olympic Games. In the men's alpine skiing, Azerbaijan`s hope will be pinned on Patrick Brahner and Cedric Notts. Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov will compete in the figure skating event.
President Aliyev and Azerbaijan's first lady attended an official reception ceremony held in honor of high-ranking guests by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
The president and his spouse also watched the men's 5,000 meters speed skating competition at the Games.
The Day of Azerbaijan was held on the sidelines of the Winter Games with the participation of President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, president of the European Olympic Committees Patrick Hickey, heads of Olympic committees of the nations participating in the Sochi Olympic Games, and other officials.
Thomas Bach said Azerbaijan had already gained popularity as a sport nation, adding that the country is making tremendous contributions to the Olympic movement.
Azerbaijani Youth and Sport Minister Azad Rahimov said sports and Olympic movement have been developing rapidly in the country, adding that Azerbaijan had successfully hosted many international sport events.
He also pointed to the preparations for the inaugural European Games which will be held in Baku in 2015.
President of the European Olympic Committees Patrick Hickey praised the preparations for the first European Games, and hailed the sport infrastructure in Azerbaijan.
Hickey said they were happy with the attention Azerbaijan paid to developing sports in the country.
A delegation from the Baku European Games Operating Committee (BEGOC) is also in Sochi to observe the Games.
"The Sochi Games will give us a valuable chance to observe the operational delivery of the Olympic Games model and to check some of the planning assumptions for the Baku 2015 First European Games," Rahimov, BEGOC head, said, praising the high quality of services and conditions at the Olympic Villages and venues for the Sochi Games.
The European Games, which will involve more than 5,400 athletes from 49 European Olympic nations competing in 18 sports, would also serve as a qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Moreover, Azad Rahimov and Ukrainian Youth and Sport Minister Ravil Safiullin have signed an agreement of cooperation in the fields of sports in Sochi.
Under the agreement, the two countries will develop cooperation in the field of sport and Olympic movement and arrange trainings for their athletes.