A strong message of peace and solidarity was sent out from Azerbaijan to world leaders, organizations, and religions, and just ordinary people that sports can pave the road to world peace.
At a time when the whole world seeks ways to bridge cultural divides and eliminate hatred, Baku showed how real is to create an environment where people trust in common humanity and capacity to develop together, where people believe that the best way forward is by collaborating and supporting each other, rather than fighting against each other...
This should not be surprising; most of the world has already recognized Azerbaijan as a model country for its tolerance and multiculturalism traditions. And make no mistake: Multiculturalism is, on the whole, a centuries-old heritage of Azerbaijan, while the country is strongly committed to religious and cultural values of Islam.
Sports have long been touted as a tool to bring peoples together, heal wounds, break down walls and rise above differences among cultures, religions and nations. As we have left behind the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games, created to strengthen Islamic solidarity among nations and entrench of principles of non-discrimination between religions, races and colors in keeping with the teachings of Islam, Baku can be proud of the work it did.
To be more specific, being a crucial and integral part of the Muslim world, Azerbaijan showed the true nature of Islam with meaningful opening and closing ceremonies of the Games. In addition to the stunning visuals, the ceremonies focused on Islamic traditions of learning, science and inclusiveness, a welcome message in the world full of divisions.
“We showed that Islam is a religion of science, culture, peace and mercy,” said President Ilham Aliyev, when summarizing the achieved results. “We have demonstrated to the entire Islamic world and to the entire planet the rich ancient history and the culture of Azerbaijan.”
Azerbaijan wrote down a history by organizing the Solidarity Games at a high-level, creating a truly atmosphere of friendship and solidarity. The Games remained in the memory of millions as a grandiose sports event, demonstrated the strength and power, the good will of Azerbaijan, its ability to organize any international event at a high level.
The 10-day extravaganza Games on the backdrop of the Year of Islamic Solidarity have brilliantly complemented each other; Azerbaijan, being a platform for dialogue between civilizations and religions, used the unique opportunity for sending messages of peace, multiculturalism and tolerance to the world.
The hosting of the Islamic Solidarity Games only two years after the excellent organization of the first-ever European Games in Baku became another bright manifestation of the country’s goodwill.
The leadership of Azerbaijan has sufficient political will to undertake any international event: be it political-economic, humanitarian forums or cultural and sporting events.
Hailing the organization of the Games, Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz, President of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation, stated that “Baku has provided the perfect setting for the athletes of our nations to shine, and for people from four continents to celebrate our shared bonds in a spirit of unity and understanding. These memorable Islamic Solidarity Games were made possible by our gracious hosts, under the leadership of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and through the commitment of First Vice President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Chair of the Baku 2017 Organizing Committee, Mehriban Aliyeva and all her team at AISGOC.”
Mehriban Aliyeva was the one at the center of organizational work both at the European Games and at the Islamic solidarity Games. Thanks to the ability of Mehriban Aliyeva, who presided in the organizing committees of both prestigious sports events, to mobilize forces in a short time, entire infrastructure, including the sports arenas, worked flawlessly so that everyone left Baku with rich impressions.
Being in charge of holding such large-scale international program, Mrs. Aliyeva herself became a model for Islamic world, where the battle for the women’s rights is a critical issue for overall development of the OIC countries. This is another political message addressed to the world, a weighty response to ignorant forces, attempting to present Islam as a "religion of inequality" and "a religion far from gender equality."
Indeed, "Baku-2017" will long be remembered as a great sporting holiday, as well as a triumph of friendship. All Muslim countries during these 10 days, through their representatives, shook hands with each other. Azerbaijan showed the world that the Islamic world is united and this unity is the source of our strength.
Baku has witnessed 10 incomparable and unforgettable days. Roughly 3,000 athletes of the Islamic world met in the framework of the grandiose celebration of sport, friendship and unity. Four continents, 54 countries lived as one family.
The Games saw that representatives of countries that do not maintain close political relations with each other congratulated each other, rejoiced in each other's success and shook hands.
Mrs. Aliyeva, expressing her feelings at the closing ceremony, said: “Azerbaijan has achieved one more historic victory, and voiced her confidence that athletes from more than 50 countries and the guests of the capital Baku will preserve the good memories about Azerbaijan.”
The people of Azerbaijan over the past days has once again demonstrated the hospitality and kindness, she stressed. "Azerbaijan showed that it is a great sporting nation."
In truth, there is another bright reason behind successful holding of the Games: Azerbaijan is a country of sports. By pursuing a focused sports policy, the country managed to achieve excellent results.
Sport holds a special place in the development of public processes in Azerbaijan. President Aliyev, addressing a meeting with the national athletes who won the Baku 2017 medals, said that every patriotic citizen of Azerbaijan welcomes the successes of our athletes and feels proud of them. "Whenever our flag is raised and the national anthem played, every patriot feels a sense of pride. Our sportsmen delighted our people with the joy of victory over these 10 days. Over these 10 days the Azerbaijani society once again demonstrated unity, solidarity and patriotism. The spectators of the competition welcomed your victories with great enthusiasm, with great love,” he said.
Besides, sport has a bigger potential for reaching the most people, especially youth. Sport and games are the natural forums for knowledge and information sharing. Engaging in sports youth develop the skills and knowledge they need to lead healthy and productive lives.
Thus, Azerbaijan, on the basis of its successful national experience of hosting the large-scale sporting events, contributes to the isolation of radical religious ideologies, teaches to be a member of a team and promotes the values of fair competition among the youth.
The Games lasted less than two weeks, but its legacy will remain pronounced for years ahead. In a world where co-existence of different faiths and ethnicities is increasingly under threat, the country, by holding flagship events is showing new models to bring people together.
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