Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Next month, Azerbaijan will be hosting the Fourth Islamic Solidarity Games. The fact that these Games will be held in Azerbaijan is a very significant event in the life of our country. First of all, I want to express my deep gratitude to the Sports Federation of Islamic Solidarity, its President Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the Federation for the decision to hold the Fourth Games of Islamic Solidarity in Azerbaijan.
Mr. President, we have always felt your support and the support of the Federation you are heading. I am very delighted that you are participating in today's ceremony. The holding of the Fourth Games of Islamic solidarity is a great honor for us. We take this as a sign of respect and confidence of Islamic countries towards Azerbaijan. At the same time, this is a tremendous responsibility for us. We can say that all preparatory work has been completed. We are ready to conduct the Games.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Organizing Committee, which has played a special role in the preparation of the Fourth Games of Islamic Solidarity, all its members and the Chairperson of the Committee, Mehriban Aliyeva.
A month later, more than 3,000 athletes from 57 countries will be competing in Azerbaijan. We are ready to receive all the guests and look forward to seeing them. As I have already mentioned, sportsmen from 57 countries will take part in the Games, which is a record in the history of the Games. We are very happy about this. At the same time, thousands of official representatives and guests will come to our country. I am sure that the guests will have the opportunity to get acquainted with our country, its realities and our ancient history.
Azerbaijan is a state possessing an ancient history and culture. Our culture and history is a source of great pride for us, a national treasure. The historical and religious monuments reflecting our ancient history are evidence that the Azerbaijanis are an ancient people and that they have lived and worked in this land since ancient times. Azerbaijan is an ancient Muslim nation. We are proud that the Shamakhi Juma mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the world, was built in 743. A few years ago this mosque was completely restored and opened its doors to the Azerbaijani people. I am sure that the guests will get acquainted with the historical places of Baku and other regions.
Volunteers have a special role in the Games. I am glad that more than 8,000 volunteers will take part in the Games. It would be impossible to conduct the Games without them. Azerbaijan, which has an ancient history, has been an independent state for only 25 years. Last year, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the restoration of our independence. These have been the years of development and creation. I think that Azerbaijan has never been as strong in its entire history. Azerbaijan enjoys great authority in the international arena. Several years ago, with the support and votes of 155 countries around the world, we became a member of the world’s top international body – the UN Security Council. This is a manifestation of the attitude and respect for us in the international arena.
All social issues are addressed in Azerbaijan. Unemployment is at the level of 5 per cent. Over the past 13 years, our economy has tripled. Literacy is 100 per cent. All this reflects the dynamic development of our country. Our cities are thriving and improving. Baku has become one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We are doing a great job in the area of Islamic solidarity. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has held a number of prestigious events in our country. We organize numerous events and presentations to promote Islamic culture in the world. We want the whole world to know and see that Islam is a religion of peace and mercy. We have an ancient culture we are proud of.
This year has been declared a Year of Islamic Solidarity in Azerbaijan. This is an important initiative we put forward to contribute to greater unity of all Muslim countries. Today, all Muslim countries should demonstrate unity and solidarity. I am sure that the Games due to be held next month will be a great sporting event, as well as a reflection of our friendship. In the course of 10 days, all Muslim countries through their representatives will establish close ties with each other and shake hands in Baku. We will demonstrate to the whole world that the Islamic world is united and that our unity makes us even stronger.
Azerbaijan has made great strides in sports. Our modern sports infrastructure enables us to host prestigious international competition. The most modern sports facilities have been put into operation in Baku. At the same time, more than 40 modern Olympic sports centers function in our cities of Azerbaijan, which further enhances interest in sports. The younger generation, children and teenagers attend sport clubs and do sports. We are proud of our outstanding athletes. We already have many Olympic champions. Azerbaijan always scores good results in prestigious international competitions. Azerbaijani athletes won 56 medals in the first European Games held in Baku two years ago and finished second in the team event. Just imagine – Azerbaijan finished second in the Games joined by European countries.
The results of last year's Olympic Games in Rio showed that this victory was not accidental. In the Olympic Games in Rio, Azerbaijan won 18 medals and finished in 14th place for the number of medals. Just pay attention – Azerbaijan, which has been an independent country for only 25 years, finishes in 14th place among 200 countries for the number of medals. We finished in seventh place among European countries and in first place among Muslim countries. This pleases and inspires us. This demonstrates the strength of the independent Azerbaijani state and the patriotism of our athletes. Whenever our flag is raised in international competitions, every patriotic citizen of Azerbaijan rightly feels proud.
Dear friends! Water is the symbol of the Islamic Solidarity Games. Water means life. Nature and man cannot live without water. Azerbaijan is a country with a picturesque nature. Beautiful lakes, rivers, springs, waterfalls, the beautiful Caspian Sea – all these are our natural treasures. Today, a great journey begins from the shores of the Caspian Sea in various directions of our country. In essence, water is a symbol, a symbol of the Games. I think that this choice deserves a high assessment. Let our journey be as transparent and our intentions as clean as water.