President Ilham Aliyev hosted an official reception in honor of participants of the Opening Ceremony of the First European Games VIDEO

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Baku, June 12 AZERTAC

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has hosted an official reception in honor of participants of the Opening Ceremony of the First European Games.

Those in attendance at the reception included President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Serbia Tomislav Nikolic, President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mladen Ivanic, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, Grand Duke of Luxembourg Henri, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Captains Regent of San Marino Andrea Belluzzi and Roberto Venturini, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, First Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Tayirbek Sarpashev, Chairman of the House of Deputies of the Czech Republic Jan Hamacek, Speaker of the Parliament of Slovakia Peter Pellegrini, Second President of the National Council of the Austrian Parliament Karlheinz Kopf, Vice Speaker of the Latvian Parliament Andrey Klementyev, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Mexican Senate Gabriela Cuevas Barron, head of the Inter-Parliamentary Relations Working Group at the Verkhovna Rada Roman Nasirov, President of Qatar Olympic Committee Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Mosaad, Minister of State for Youth Affairs of Kuwait Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Hmoud Al-Sabah, Turkmenistan`s Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Rashid Meredov, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister of Sports Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman Sheikh Saad bin Mohammed Al Mardouf Al Saadi, Iranian Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Mahmoud Goudarzi, Turkey`s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz, British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Tobias Ellwood, the Vatican`s Deputy Culture Minister Luis Marie William Sancez De Toca, ISESCO Director General Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, former Latvian President Valdes Zatlers and other high-level guests.

President Ilham Aliyev and chairperson of the Baku 2015 first European Games Organizing Committee Mehriban Aliyeva met with the heads of state and government, outstanding public, political and sport figures.

The event featured a video clip on the first European Games.

President Ilham Aliyev addressed the event.

Speech by President Ilham Aliyev:

- Dear ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests.

My sincere greetings to all of you. I would like to say to all foreign visitors: Welcome to Azerbaijan.

The first European Games will begin in Baku a few hours later. First of all, I would like to congratulate all the people of Azerbaijan and the peoples of Europe on this event. I am confident that this sporting event will be a celebration of friendship and kindness.

This is a historic event for our country because sporting events of this magnitude have not been conducted in our country before. At the same time, it is a historic event for Europe because, in contrast to other continents, Europe has never held its own continental Games even though Europe is the birthplace of the Olympic movement and Olympic ideas. This historic decision was made in December 2012. I want to express my deep gratitude to the European Olympic Committee and personally to its President Mr. Patrick Hickey for the adoption of this decision. This decision will play a positive role in the development of European sport in the future.

Immediately after the decision was made, we established the Organizing Committee of the Games in Azerbaijan. This was followed by the establishment of the Operations Committee, which consists of local and international representatives. Working very hard, the Organizing Committee and the Operations Committee prepared such a representative sporting event in a short time.

Of course, a huge role in the preparation of the Games was played by volunteers. Over these years, about 20,000 local and foreign volunteers have been working hard on staging the Games. I want to emphasize their role. The vast majority of them are young people. They are our future. Of course, this invaluable experience will play a positive role in their future life.

Great importance is attached to the development of sport in Azerbaijan. The development of sport and the Olympic movement is a state policy in Azerbaijan, and our athletes delight us with successful results. I can say that in the latest Summer Olympics the Azerbaijani team finished 30th in global rankings and 15th among European countries.

Our young athletes also delight us. The Azerbaijani team finished in 10th place among more than 200 participants in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. This suggests that a great younger generation is growing up and the tradition of sport is being strengthened. Of course, this has a positive impact on the overall development of our country.

The sporting community is an integral part of our life. It is no coincidence that the First European Games are being held in Baku. I think that along with the successes of our athletes, other factors have also played a role in this. Azerbaijan has created a well-developed sports infrastructure. We have created about 50 Olympic sports centers in our regions. All sports facilities in Baku meet the highest standards. Participants and guests of the Games can confirm this.

The city infrastructure is well-developed. This area has received great attention, particularly during preparations for the Games. The improvement of our transport system, the service sector, the opening of new hotels, of course, will lead to a significant increase in the number of visitors to Azerbaijan in the future. At the same time, thousands of visitors from Europe will get to know Azerbaijan. I am sure that many of them will want to come back to Azerbaijan in the future.

There is political stability in Azerbaijan. The successful and sustainable development of the country is being ensured. The economic development also pleases our people. This year the economy grew by more than 5 per cent. In the past 10 years, Azerbaijan has been the fastest growing economy in the world – it has more than tripled. All of these factors, of course, allow us the opportunity to conduct these Games at a high level. We aspired to achieve this, and I am sure that visitors will be watching the Games with great interest.

I want to mention another important factor. I am talking about public support for the Games. The Azerbaijani people are very enthusiastic about the First European Games being held in Baku. In the last two years, the Games have become some kind of a national cause. About two million people took to the streets and squares to welcome the Games torch in all our regions, including Baku, and to show strong public support for the Games.

The Games begin today. During these days, until 28 June, athletes will demonstrate their strength. After the Games, of course, life will be continued. Azerbaijan will be hosting other major and prestigious sporting events. In 2016, Baku will host the World Chess Olympiad. In 2016, Baku will also host a "Formula 1" event. In 2017, Azerbaijan and Baku will play host to the Islamic Solidarity Games. In 2020, Baku will host group stage and quarter-final matches of the UEFA European Cup. So Azerbaijan has already demonstrated its role in the development of sports to the world. I am convinced that the sportsmen coming to Baku to take part in future competitions and other visitors will leave our country with the most pleasant impressions.

The Games are about to begin. All teams are ready. The Azerbaijani people look forward to the Games. On this historic day for us, I want to welcome all the athletes and guests again and wish the athletes success. Let the best man win. Thank you.

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