Baku, December 13, AZERTAC
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, president of the National Olympic Committee Ilham Aliyev has attended a ceremony dedicated to sporting results of 2018 at the National Olympic Committee.
The head of state made a speech at the ceremony.
Speech of President Ilham Aliyev
- Dear friends, year 2018 is coming to an end. Every year at a meeting with athletes, we discuss sporting results of the year and talk about plans for the future. 2018 was a very successful year for our country. Our country achieved great success in all areas, including the field of sports.
As you know, many dangerous processes were taking place in the world in 2018. It is possible to say that the international situation became even more aggravated. The bloody clashes, wars, protests and other events reflect the entire panorama of 2018.
In Azerbaijan, however, stability and security were ensured. Azerbaijan successfully goes its own way and meets all of its objectives. Of course, we monitor the processes occurring in the world and cannot remain indifferent to them because the developments unfolding in Europe, in our region and in the Middle East are causing concern.
As you know, very serious changes took place in Armenia this year. The regime of the criminal junta, which had illegally usurped power for 20 years, fell, and the Armenian people today confirm what we have been saying. The criminal and corrupt regime had exploited its people for 20 years, and the ignominious end of this regime is quite logical. I have to also say that our consistent and focused policy has played a role in the fall of the regime of the criminal junta. Our policy remains unchanged. As long as our lands are under occupation, we will use all the possibilities to keep Armenia in isolation, and we have achieved this.
The global energy and transport projects implemented on our initiative bypass Armenia. As a result of our policy, Armenia is experiencing a demographic crisis. People are leaving the country en masse. There is no basis for economic development. There is no foreign investment. Their access to international markets has become much more complicated. We have been able to prove in the international arena that we are the right side in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In other words, all these and other factors, including, of course, our military might, have put Armenia in such a difficult position.
The liberation of parts of our occupied lands from invaders two years ago and the raising of the Azerbaijani flag on these lands were a crushing blow to the criminal regime. Since that time, the already precarious foundations of this country have become even more shaky and collapsed. In other words, these events happened next door to us. Of course, I think that there is a more favorable situation for the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict today. This is evidenced by many factors. First of all, it is evidenced by our growing strength, potential, economic, military and political power, international positions. We will continue to pursue a consistent policy in this direction.
At the same time, Azerbaijan is known worldwide as a country worthy of very great respect today. Our international authority is growing. I have repeatedly said this, and these are not just words. International organizations have adopted numerous decisions and resolutions reflecting our position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In bilateral agreements, this issue reflects our position. The signing of a document on partnership priorities with the European Union was a very significant event. This document expresses support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and the inviolability of the borders of Azerbaijan. The NATO summit stressed a very important issue regarding our territorial integrity. Our position is always reflected in bilateral documents signed. This is what I mean by saying that our international authority is growing. At the same time, the Azerbaijani people are well aware that our position prevails even in the organizations Armenia is a member of and we are not, and this causes hysteria in Armenia.
A regular meeting of the top military leaders of Russia and NATO took place in Baku yesterday. This was not the first meeting. Prior to that, a meeting of the chiefs of the general staffs of the United States and Russia was held in Baku. Meetings of the military leaders of NATO and Russia are also regularly held in Azerbaijan. This is a very significant event. There are about 200 UN member-states in the world, but this meeting was held specifically in Azerbaijan. There are about 50 countries in Europe, but this meeting was specifically held in Azerbaijan. Why? There are several reasons for that. First of all, we enjoy trust. Azerbaijan is a very reliable partner, our words are complemented by our deeds, we fulfill all our promises and stand behind our words. On the other hand, there is respect for us. The policy we are pursuing today has earned us tremendous respect. Azerbaijan is treated with great sympathy. By pursuing an independent policy, we have been able to assert ourselves as an independent country in the true sense of the word. I believe that this is the second reason. The third reason is that we have close ties with both Russia and NATO. Our ties of strategic partnership with Russia are strengthening with every passing day. We work with NATO on the basis of numerous programs, provide great support and assistance to Afghanistan in the peacekeeping operation. Other factors have also played a role here. However, I want to once again draw the attention of the Azerbaijani public to this issue: this meeting was held specifically in Azerbaijan and it is of great importance for the world.
Azerbaijan is successfully meeting all its objectives in the economic sphere. Our economy is growing. Social issues are being addressed. Many important infrastructure projects were successfully implemented in 2018. Historic successes were achieved in the transport and oil and gas sectors. We have done it all ourselves. We have achieved it thanks to the great support of the Azerbaijani people.
Thus, if we sum up the results of the year, we can say that it has been a very successful year, including the field of sports. Our athletes make us feel happy every year. Our society has already got used to this. This year, our athletes have won about 800 medals in world, European and other international competitions, including 263 gold. This is a great result and a tremendous victory. I congratulate the athletes on this victory.
This is not just a sporting victory, however. Every grand victory enhances the patriotic spirit of our society, presents Azerbaijan in the world as a strong sporting nation and promotes its reputation. These victories encourage young people to do sports and enhance the popularity of sport. In other words, sporting victories, the successes of our athletes carry a great meaning. We are grateful for that. At the same time, I should note with a sense of deep satisfaction that the absolute majority of our athletes set an excellent example in life and in everyday life, an example of patriotism and dignity. Of course, respect for athletes in society is at a very high level. Children and teenagers want to be like our champions. And this is natural. I am sure that the athletes will continue to please us and our people.
A wonderful young generation is growing up. We are showing excellent results in international competitions among youth as well. We are achieving this success because our younger generation is growing up. At the Rio Olympics, we won 18 medals. These medals were won by young people who had participated in youth competitions five or six years earlier. For the number of medals, we finished in 14th place in Rio. This is a historic achievement. It will be very difficult to emulate this result. I should also note that preparations for the next summer Olympic Games will enter the crucial stage next year. Of course, we should train hard to represent our country at the Olympics properly.
You are aware of the great successes we have achieved in building the sports infrastructure. Forty-four Olympic sports centers have been built and are functioning in the regions alone. One center has been built this year and there are plans to build three Olympic sports centers next year. Thus, their number will reach 47.
Our country traditionally hosts major international sports competitions. Of course, we remember the European Games and the Games of Islamic Solidarity. This year, our country hosted world and European championships. For three years now, a Formula 1 event have been held in Baku, Azerbaijan. According to the general opinion and opinion of public organizations dealing with this issue, the Baku F1 events were the best both this and last year. This is also a wonderful event, because it shows that every decision we make is correct and produces excellent results.
As you know, the influx of tourists to our country continues. The number of tourists increased by 22 per cent in 2016, by 20 per cent in 2017 and by more than 6 per cent in 11 months of this year. It is true that growth compared to previous years is somewhat lower, but we must know that the basis is growing. In other words, it will be increasingly difficult to achieve high growth with every passing year. However, very serious work is being done in this direction. I can say that Formula 1 competitions held in the city center have played a special role in attracting tourists.
Azerbaijan’s successes in the field of sports are being acknowledged by international sports organizations. Both the International Olympic Committee and the European Olympic Committee appreciate our activities. Next year, the European Youth Olympic Festival will be held in Baku. This is a type of European youth games. We are very serious about preparations for this competition. The experience we have accumulated suggests that these competitions will be held at a high level.
Next year, for the first time in history, the Europa League Final will be held in Baku. It was not at all easy to win the right to host this match in Baku. Many cities were in competition. The overall development of our country, the existing infrastructure, sports facilities, the wonderful Olympic Stadium, excellent hotels, security, the hospitality of our people and other factors have played a role in the adoption of this decision.
In other words, we are confidently moving forward. Sport is an integral part of our society. Athletes are always valued highly and enjoy attention. As president of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan for 21 years, I have always tried to show attention and care for the athletes, address their problems and create conditions for their excellent performance. Of course, every result and every success must be properly evaluated. We traditionally present athletes with state awards, cash bonuses and apartments at the end of the year. These awards are also being presented this year. This includes 25 apartments that will be provided to our prominent sports representatives.
Once again, I congratulate Azerbaijani athletes on their success. Dear athletes, I wish you continued victories and success. Thank you!
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The event then featured an awards ceremony on 2018 sporting results.
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