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President Ilham Aliyev attended the award ceremony on the occasion of the First European Games VIDEO

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Baku, June 29, AZERTAC

A meeting has been held with the 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.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, his wife, chairperson of the Baku 2015 First European Games Organizing Committee Mehriban Aliyeva and family members attended the ceremony.

First a footage highlighting 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 was demonstrated.

The head of state made a speech at the event.

Speech by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

- Dear President of the European Olympic Committees Mr. Patrick Hickey,

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Dear athletes!

The first European Games have been successfully completed in Baku. I cordially congratulate you and the entire Azerbaijani people on this occasion.

The First European Games are a historic event for our country and Europe. It is historic for our country because international sports competitions of this level had not been carried out in Azerbaijan before. And it is historic for Europe because, in contrast to other continents, Europe had never conducted continental games.

In December 2012, by the decision of the European Olympic Committees, we were entrusted the honorable mission of conducting the first games. On my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Azerbaijan, I want to once again express my deep appreciation to everyone who contributed to this decision, first of all to the President of the European Olympic Committees Mr. Patrick Hickey. These Games have been held on the initiative of Mr. Patrick Hickey. I would like to once again express my deep appreciation to everyone who participated in conducting the Games.

After this decision, Azerbaijan embarked on hard work. The Organizing Committee and the International Operations Committee were set up. We were all well aware that for these Games to be held at a high level, it is necessary that the entire public and all citizens of Azerbaijan provided their active support. And so it happened. The torch welcoming ceremonies brought together about two million citizens of Azerbaijan. This major popular support gave us the strength and confidence to conduct the Games at the highest level.

I remember addressing the people and congratulating them after the decision was made. I also said that we would try to conduct the Games at the highest level. I am glad that this has been the case. Indeed, the First European Games will remain in history also because they were held at the highest international level.

We had only two and a half years to prepare for the Games. It is not too difficult to imagine the hard work we faced with severe time pressure and stressful conditions. Of course, there was tremendous responsibility on our shoulders. There were no standards of European Games. As a matter of fact, the standards of the Games were created by all of us in Azerbaijan, and these are the highest standards.

The torch lighting ceremony was also quite memorable. Once again, I want to thank the President of the European Olympic Committees, Mr. Hickey, for his decision and for the decision of the European Olympic Committees to light future torches at the Atqshgah temple in Baku, Azerbaijan.

I appreciate the role of the International Operations Committee, BEGOC, in the preparation of the Games. The professionals working there, of course, brought their experience and knowledge to Azerbaijan and shared them with us. Without them, it would hardly be possible to conduct the Games at this level.

I know that over these months and years they have fallen in love with Azerbaijan. Seeing all the opportunities available in Azerbaijan, the mood of our people and the positive developments ongoing in the country, they got very attached to our people and state. I am confident that these memories will stay with them forever, because they lived a part of their lives in Azerbaijan. I am convinced that we will continue to meet frequently.

I would like to highlight the work of volunteers. They took on a significant portion of the burden for conducting the Games. The volunteers have shown again that our country has a huge potential and human capital. In 2003, when I had just become President, I said that our main task was to transform the economic capital, more precisely the "black gold", into human capital. Today's young people, the young people who grew up and received education in the period of independence, are a source of pride for us. About 20,000 volunteers, the vast majority of them are local guys and young people, worked day and night. Working professionally and skillfully round the clock, they showed the athletes their culture, the respect inherent in the people of Azerbaijan, as well as hospitality and cordiality. While communicating with foreign guests over these days, I always heard kind words about our volunteers. Our future is indeed in good hands. I am sure that after these Games our volunteers will take a worthy place in society. They are our future. The future development of Azerbaijan should be in the hands of our young people. Young people should be educated, competent, professional and patriotic – just as professional, educated and patriotic as our volunteers.

I want to emphasize today the activities of the Organizing Committee. The Organizing Committee carried out huge and hard work. Of course, the public may not be fully aware of what this work was because the Organizing Committee worked on a daily basis but the public did not receive such a wealth of information. The entire work on any minor issue was done at the highest level, which is why no problems were experienced during the Games.

I would like to emphasize the great job done by Mehriban Aliyeva, who was leading the Organizing Committee. She has made an enormous contribution to the Games. I can say that she has invested her whole heart and soul in conducting the Games at this level. While determining the composition of the Organizing Committee, I was absolutely convinced that in this format it could achieve the best result. It included experience, professionalism and, most importantly, love of the people and the state. This, in general, is the main condition of the success achieved by our country. Sometimes people ask me: Azerbaijan is developing dynamically even though the developments in the region, the world and even on our continent are not very encouraging – what is your secret?

We could talk a lot about that, but I think that the most important thing is that we love our country and our people most of all. This love, this patriotism, professionalism and dedication, of course, allow Azerbaijan to develop rapidly. In the future, we will celebrate huge victories.

Of course, I want to highlight the successes of our athletes today. Naturally, we had to conduct these Games and we did conduct them at a high level. This once again demonstrates the potential and power of our country. Of course, we are aware of this potential. We have created it ourselves. In just 24 years, Azerbaijan has reached the heights some countries may need a century to achieve. These Games have simply allowed us the opportunity to demonstrate our potential to the world, Europe and our own public. The human potential, the economic potential of our state, the good atmosphere dominant in our society, the unity between the people and government, the unity around national ideas and national accord – these are the main conditions of our success.

These Games also allowed us the opportunity to demonstrate ourselves. Those negatively prejudiced against us sometimes reproached Azerbaijan for wanting to conduct the Games to show itself. This is natural. Of course, any country wants to show itself. The developed countries that have repeatedly hosted events of this level also wanted to show themselves. So there is nothing reprehensible in that. Yes, we have a lot to show. We have shown Azerbaijan to the world as a modern, dynamic, democratic and developing people and state attached to their culture and history. The Games have created a unique mood in society. This was also the case earlier. So our society is very active in the name of national ideas and national interests. These Games united our people even more, instilled a sense of pride in us – just look what we are capable of accomplishing!

Returning to the success of our athletes - this is particularly important because their victory raised the Games to an even higher peak. I am absolutely sure that those present here and the general public probably had different assumptions about our team's performance in the overall ranking, but perhaps no-one believed that we would finish in second place. This is a historic victory, the victory of the Azerbaijani sport and the Azerbaijani state. Dear athletes, I kiss and embrace all of you. Thank you!

Over these days, all of us probably experienced some touching moments more than once. We all witnessed memorable moments that are difficult to describe in words. The joy of victory, pride, strength and courage of our athletes, the unity of the people – we will never forget that.

Today, Azerbaijan is on the top. Today Azerbaijan is successfully moving forward as an independent, growing and strong state. We have achieved great victories in the political and economic spheres, in the diplomatic arena, in sports competitions. We are rightly proud of that. We are proud to be citizens of Azerbaijan. We are proud of the fact that in just 24 years, thanks to the talent and hard work of the Azerbaijani people, as well as a prudent policy, we have built a strong state.

Sport shows the overall development of any country. If you look at the list of countries that have achieved the best results in sport – and these Games are also a clear proof of that – you can see that comprehensively developed countries are at always forefront. Poor, non-developing and backward countries rarely achieve good results in sports.

Sporting successes rest on a certain foundation. We have created this foundation. We have been seriously engaged in the development of sports for many years. Athletes, clubs, federations, sports associations, the National Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Youth and Sport - all of us are developing sport together. It is no coincidence in world and European championships and Olympic Games, our athletes rise to the highest step of the podium. This time, the Games have become a celebration of Azerbaijani sport and Azerbaijani state.

We will continue to develop successfully. I have no doubt about that this. Azerbaijan will follow the path of development. In the future, ever greater successes and victories are in store for us. I wish all Azerbaijani people further s and victories along this journey.

X X X

Then the award ceremony was held.

Addressing the event, Chief Operating Officer of the Baku European Games Operations Committee (BEGOC) Simon Clegg, Azerbaijan`s Minister of Youth and Sports Azad Rahimov thanked the head of state for his active support for the excellent organization of the Games.

President Ilham Aliyev`s order dated 29 June, 2015, to confer "Heydar Aliyev" order upon Mehriban Aliyeva for her fruitful activity to develop culture, education, healthcare and sports in the Republic of Azerbaijan, ensure extensive promotion of the cultural heritage of the people of Azerbaijan on the international level and big contribution to the organization of the First European Games was read out at the ceremony.

The head of state presented "Heydar Aliyev" order to Mehriban Aliyeva.

Mehriban Aliyeva addressed the event.

Azerbaijan`s Minister of Youth and Sports Azad Rahimov once again thanked the head of state for his big attention and care to sports and athletes in the country.

Then the ceremony featured the demonstration of a footage highlighting victories of the Azerbaijani athletes in the First European Games, showing the head of state present medals to the winning Azerbaijani athletes.

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