Baku, June 6, AZERTAC
The forthcoming Baku2015 European Games – to be hosted in the Azerbaijani capital from 12–28 June have been celebrated during the opening of the Azerbaijan – Sport in Focus exhibition at the Maison du sport François (French House of Sport) in Paris. The exhibition was hosted by the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF) and organized by the French office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), in partnership with the Baku European Games Operation Committee (BEGOC) and the Musée National du Sport (French National Sports Museum) in Nice. The opening and subsequent exhibition was also publicized on the official French Olympic team website at http://bit.ly/espritbleuasif.
More than 150 diplomats, sportsmen and women, sports enthusiasts and members of the Azerbaijani diaspora attended the opening, which was broadcast on L’Équipe 21 – official French broadcaster of the Baku2015 Games.
Senator Jean-Claude Frécon; Jean-François Mancel MP; Alain Bertholom, President of the French Federation of Wrestling and Head of the French delegation to the European Games; Alain Calmat, former French Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports and currently President of the Medical Committee of the CNOSF; Mickaël Landreau, the renowned French goalkeeper; and Marie Bochet, alpine skier and Paralympic Champion took part at the event.
Denis Masseglia, President of the French Olympic Committee, said: “When the city of Baku unveiled its candidature for the European Games, we knew it was ready and capable of organizing this event. As I am already aware, Azerbaijan is a very beautiful country, and its capital has all the resources necessary for hosting the European Games.
“It is an immense pleasure to welcome the opening of this exhibition, and to recall that sport plays an integral role in social cohesion. In France, it is unusual for a child of three years not to be a member of a sports club. Sports events, such as the European Games, permit the promotion of physical activity and sports to a large number of people.”
Elchin Amirbayov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to France, explained: “The European Games are the greatest multisport competition to be organized in the history of our country. Azerbaijan, particularly in Baku, embodies the traditions of multiculturalism and religious tolerance. Over the past few years it has already hosted several international events to promote intercultural dialogue and interreligious tolerance.
“The overriding importance of sport is to promote the concept of peace and the ideals of fraternity, solidarity and tolerance. It has the capacity to unite peoples. I believe it is exactly in this spirit that TEAS brings together these two important elements – culture and sport – contributing to and reinforcing friendship and solidarity between peoples.
“I would like to thank TEAS France for this exhibition in this symbolic place. These photographs celebrate the diversity of sport in its most universal dimension.”
Marie-Laetitia Gourdin, Director, TEAS France, commented: “The objective of Azerbaijan – Sport in Focus is to encapsulate the universality of sports and the essence of sporting spirit on the eve of the inaugural European Games in Baku. We hope it is indicative of the importance of sport for Azerbaijan and why it is natural for the country to host these first ‘Olympics’ for the European continent.
“Over the past decade, Azerbaijani infrastructure has considerably developed. Under Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Director of the Azerbaijani Olympic Committee, sports and sport infrastructure have been developed very quickly. Azerbaijan has prepared to host the Games in just two-and-a-half years, whereas other countries would take seven years.
“We hope that Baku2015 will increase knowledge of Azerbaijan across all European countries and will serve to attract additional tourists. The country is also preparing to host more international and regional sporting events in future years, including the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Baku in 2016, the Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017, and certain matches for Euro 2020. Azerbaijan will also be well-placed to bid for the Summer Olympic Games in 2024.”
In an interview for TEAS, Senator Frécon also declared: “This is an excellent opportunity for Azerbaijan and also for Europe. The European Games remind us that the borders of Europe – or rather the Council of Europe – extend to the Caspian Sea and to Azerbaijan.”
The exhibition showcases the 65 shortlisted images from the TEAS Azerbaijan – Sport in Focus competition, for which more than 300 entries were received from amateur and professional photographers in ten countries.
The jury comprised the American photojournalist Ed Kashi (co-founder of the VII photographic agency, winner of the World Press Photo contest in 2011 and whose images have been published in such leading publications as the National Geographic Magazine, New York Times and Newsweek); German photographer Philipp Rathmer (known for his numerous portraits of celebrities such as Michael Schumacher, Lady Gaga and Sophia Loren, in addition to reportage); and renowned Azerbaijani photographer Agdes Baghirzade.
The winners were announced at the prestigious [email protected] on London’s South Bank, and have subsequently travelled to the Musée National du Sport in Nice, Maastricht, Brussels, Istanbul and Berlin.