Baku, May 13, AZERTAC
The swimming events at the fourth edition of the Islamic Solidarity Games will get underway on Saturday at the Baku Aquatics Centre in the first full day of competition.
Swimmers from 28 countries will be hoping to make a slash at the state-of-the-art facility, which was purpose built for the 2015 European Games in the Azerbaijan capital.
The host nation claimed an impressive second place in the medals table at those inaugural games with a total of 56, but will be hoping to improve on their poor performance in the pool - where they failed to land a single medal.
"I think that for Azerbaijan, these Islamic Games will be better," confided Elmir Hasanov, who has been promoted to Venue Media Manager at the Baku Aquatic Centre, having acted as its Photo Supervisor two years ago. "I hope they will be better, at any rate!"
Hasanov is just one example of Baku 2017's commitment to putting Azerbaijani staff on the front line at the Solidarity Games, in the hope that they will gain the necessary experience to organise more elite-level sporting events in future.
"It's better for us," Hasanov agreed. "If you look at 2015 there were a lot of foreign staff, but now there are a lot of Azerbaijanis working at the Solidarity Games, and the level of organisation is very high."
There are a total of 40 gold medals up for grabs in the swimming events - 20 for men and 20 for women - with six finals scheduled on the opening day alone: the men's 200m backstroke, 400m freestyle, 50m breaststroke and 4 x 100m freestyle relay, and the women's 200m individual medley and 50m breaststroke.
The Aquatics Centre will also host the diving competitions between May 18-21, with four medal events apiece for men and women.
The Islamic Solidarity Games run from May 12-22, and will be officially declared open at Friday night's highly-anticipated Opening Ceremony at the Baku Olympic Stadium.
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