By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijan’s capital Baku has now been officially appointed host country for the IV Islamic Solidarity Games - to be held in Baku-2017- after an official signing ceremony on April 7.
Baku, finalizing all preparations in view of the historic inaugural European Games this June, was granted the honor to hold the IV Islamiada in Jeddah in July 2013.
The contract was signed in Baku by Azerbaijan’s Youth and Sports Minister, Azad Rahimov, Vice President of the National Olympic Committee, Chingiz Huseynzade, and President of Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation, Youth and Sports Minister of Saudi Arabia, President of Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
"Azerbaijan is fully ready to host the Games," Huseynzade said at the ceremony.
The IV Islamic Solidarity Games will be held on May 2017 putting this small country of the South Caucasus firmly onto the international map.
The exact dates for the Games are yet to be determined and will very much depend on the Islamic calendar since the sports event will need to coincide with the month of Muharram.
“The Games will be held before the month of Ramadan," Huseynzade noted.
Islamiada will present about 19-20 sports. The competition program will resemble that of the European Games with some additions - weightlifting for example will figure among the disciplines competing for a medal.
Azerbaijan has actively participated in all Islamiada Games and it has achieved great success so far.
“We believe that these Games are very important for Azerbaijani sportsmen and we are very proud to prepare for them. The guests visited all the sports arenas today. Therefore, it is safe to say that Azerbaijan is ready to hold the Games. We will conduct these Games at a high level,” the NOC’s vice president said.
The Youth and Sports minister of Saudi Arabia expressed his gratitude toward the government of Azerbaijan for its great interest in the Islamic Solidarity Games.
“The upcoming Games in Baku will be one of the biggest sporting events,” he said. “We examined the arena, where the Games will be held, and one can already say that Baku is fully ready to hold them.”
Azad Rahimov, in turn, reminded that Azerbaijan has held high-level international sports competitions in recent years.
Despite the fact that Azerbaijan has recently gained its independence, it has become one of the leading Islamic countries in a very short period of time, he said.
Rahimov went on to add that over a hundred athletes will represent Azerbaijan at the IV Islamiada Baku-2017. “We will try to present athletes in all sports.”
The Islamic Solidarity Games is a multinational, multi-sport event involving the elite athletes of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, which is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the UN with 57 member states spread over four continents.
The Games, which will bring together athletes from 57 countries, will be held under the slogan "Solidarity is our power". Athletes do not have to be Muslims to compete in the Games - religion is in no way compulsory.
The first of the ISG tournaments was held in 2005 in Saudi Arabia with an Olympic-style tournament aimed at showing Muslim sports prowess and featuring 6,000 athletes.
Azerbaijan gained four gold, four silver and seven bronze medals at the first ISG, thus becoming the eighth country in the medal table.
The second event, originally scheduled to take place in October 2009 in Iran, and later re-scheduled for April 2010, was cancelled after a dispute emerged between Iran and the Arab countries. The third Games was held in Indonesia, and brought Azerbaijan 24 medals.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
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