The Business Year

Azad Rahimov


Sport It Out

Minister of Youth and Sports, Azerbaijan


Born in 1964, Azad Rahimov is currently the Minister of Youth and Sport. His previous positions include Vice-President of the National Olympic Committee, and President of the Azerbaijan Dance Sport Federation. He studied at Azerbaijan State University of Languages.

Azerbaijan is preparing to host the first ever European Games, a multi-sport event for European athletes, in 2015. How are the preparations for the event progressing? Azerbaijan has never been […]

Azerbaijan is preparing to host the first ever European Games, a multi-sport event for European athletes, in 2015. How are the preparations for the event progressing?

Azerbaijan has never been so successful in sports as it is today. Through the decree of the President of Azerbaijan, the year 2012 was declared as “The Year of Sports” in Azerbaijan. At present, Azerbaijan is known as one of the strongest and most successful sporting centers. Despite being a small country, it has managed to host some of the largest international sport competitions in the world. Furthermore, the improving performance of Azerbaijani athletes at the Olympic Games illustrates the interest and attention to sports in our country. For example, at the Beijing Olympics, Azerbaijan was represented by 44 athletes in 11 disciplines, while four years later, at the London Olympics, it was represented by 53 athletes in 16 disciplines. Our Olympians won two gold, two silver, and six bronze medals, which was a record in the history of Azerbaijani sports. Another important sporting event is the Third Islamic Solidarity Games, where Azerbaijan was placed seventh out of 46 countries. Our athletes won a total of 24 medals, including six gold, nine silver, and nine bronze medals. Baku bid to host the Olympic Games in 2016 and 2020. And while it fulfilled all requirements, our candidacy was not accepted. However, it didn’t affect our efforts and attempts for future preparations. The experience obtained during this period will create new opportunities for the next stage of our candidacy. Moreover, it was a chance to present Azerbaijan to other countries. Meanwhile, the developing national economy, as well as improvements in the area of sport, creates a great opportunity for the preparations. The experience gained has also inspired us to promote Azerbaijan for the 2024 Olympic Games. The European Games will be a multi-sport event for elite athletes from the 49 Olympic nations of Europe, and will be held every four years. The Games are owned and regulated by the European Olympic Committees (EOC). With Baku 2015 expecting around 5,600 competitors across 18 sports, the 2015 European Games is set to be a major event in the international sporting calendar.

How will the hosting of this event, as well as other large-scale sporting events, benefit Azerbaijan’s youth as far as job creation and participation are concerned?

The host city’s preparations are on schedule, with construction and structural planning for many of the 21 stadiums and facilities for the Baku 2015 Games already well advanced. Venues for Baku 2015 will include the iconic Crystal Hall, which hosted Eurovision 2012, a new National Aquatics Centre, and a modern, multi-purpose 65,000-seat stadium. The construction of the Athletes Village is also highly advanced, and already regarded by experienced games planners and consultants as one of best accommodation and preparation facilities ever provided for elite competition athletes. Other landmarks, such as the Flame Towers and the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, will provide a spectacular backdrop for the events. The people of Baku and the whole of Azerbaijan are looking forward to welcoming athletes, officials, media, and spectators from across Europe. Our aim is to demonstrate the warmth and hospitality of Azerbaijan, the host city and its people, and to show what we have to offer as a new destination for sport, business, and tourism. Working with the EOC and sporting federations, we will showcase sport in new formats and settings and put the European Games on the world stage, heralding a new major sporting and cultural event. Events confirmed for Baku 2015 include established Olympic sports such as swimming, diving, cycling, boxing, and gymnastics, as well as new formats for sports such as basketball 3×3 and beach soccer, providing an exciting blueprint for future major sporting events.

How do you expect sports to advance the economic development and reputation of Azerbaijan internationally?

At present, there are 40 Olympic sport centers across Azerbaijan and 35 have been built over the past decade alone. The main purpose of this strategy was to inspire the younger generation invest their free time in sports activities. The Azerbaijani population has over 9 million people, 31% of whom are classed as young. A healthy, strong, and educated youth is the powerhouse of any country. Moreover, the opening of these complexes creates a major opportunity for the country to hold international competitions not just in the capital, but also in the regions. Sporting facilities are not only built in the large cities, but also in villages and small towns. Several vital elements need to be ready for the Olympic Games. Currently, the Gymnastics Complex is being constructed. This complex will enable the country to host various international sports competitions in Baku. At the same time, the Republic Sports Center is also being constructed in Baku, which will make sure athletes have access to comprehensive medical services. I would add here that construction of Baku’s Water Sport Palace has also begun. One of the most important achievements of the last year was the reconstruction of the nation’s largest sporting arenas, namely the Republican Stadium named after Tofig Bakhramov. During recent years, we have given special attention to the construction of swimming pools and chess schools. The first European Games will be a major opportunity for our country in terms of displaying hospitality and professionalism. Indeed, the EOC has evaluated Azerbaijan’s preparation for the Games very highly. Obviously, we realize the responsibility and difficulty of such an endeavor, but is only strengthens our resolve to perform perfectly.

“ A healthy, strong, and educated youth is the powerhouse of any country. “

What other international sporting events will be held in Azerbaijan?

We are determined to construct a diversity of sports centers and facilities. By the time of the opening ceremony, all construction will have been completed. International TV channels will also be licensed to broadcast the event. These games will, therefore, create major interest in the culture and tourism potential of Azerbaijan. The government’s sport strategy is aimed at presenting our country to the world as one of the most welcoming, comfortable, and prominent, and as a reliable figure in major international events. In an historic moment for the Olympic Games, Azerbaijan will hold the first European Games in 2015. In 2017, we will be the center of the Fourth Islamic Solidarity Games. Moreover, the Chess Olympiad 2016 and Chess World Cup 2015 are to be held in Baku. Consequently, all previously mentioned construction projects create a wide picture of sporting interest and attention in the country.



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