Anar Bagirov: "Azerbaijan is 100% ready for Islamic games"
Two weeks remain until the beginning of the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games, which will be held in Baku from May 12 to 22. The organizing committee, chaired by Mehriban Aliyeva, was created a year and a half ago. The program of includes 20 types of sports, including athletics, swimming, water polo, diving, artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, table tennis, wushu, judo.
Head of Azerbaijani delegation at the upcoming Games, Anar Bagirov, discussed preparations for the event in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- Is Baku ready for the Islamic Games?
- The preparations are underway. Of course, all teams are ready to work. All athletes are also ready. They have a busy schedule, a lot of training camps. Our teams in many sports are leaders of the world ratings, not only regional ratings or ratings of Islamic countries. We plan to win medals in all possible types of sports. We hope to win gold in most of them.
- Can you tell some details about your work?
- I'm head of Islamic Games' Azerbaijani delegation. I'm responsible for the entire delegation, I manage delegation during the Games. Our delegation consists of 322 athletes. The total number of delegates is 499. We are the second largest team - Turkey's team is a little bit bigger. Our delegation is represented in all disciplines, both in team competitions and in individual. I manage preparation process and I'm responsible for performance of our delegation.
- What can you tell about the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation's readiness for the Games?
- The Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation, just like everyone else, plans to show the best result. Of course, like many other federations, it faces certain difficulties. This especially concerns injuries. We hope that key athletes will recover before the Islamic Games, especially since we expect gold medals from them.
- How many countries will participate in the Games?
- 55 countries, plus Kuwait, which will participate under the auspices of the International Federation of Islamic Sports. It's quite large list. Especially considering the fact that the European Olympic Committee consists of 50 countries. Teams will be huge - unlike the European Games, it's easier to get to these competitions.
- Is it hard to prepare for the Islamic Games?
- It's not that hard. But the Islamic Games are multi-sport competitions, there are many types of sports, and each sport has some special features. People prepare for some sports behind close doors at home, some teams train abroad, sparring with other rivals from around the world. Each sport has a different preparation process. There are sports with extremely difficult schedule, and athletes along with coaches have to take preparation for such big events into account. At the moment, half of our teams are in international camps abroad. Those who practice taekwondo are currently competing at the World Cup in Greece, gymnasts - at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku. To some extent, it hinders preparation for the competition, but at least its practice.
- Who will carry the flag at the opening ceremony?
- This issue is currently discussed at the highest level.
- Will heads of states visit this ceremony?
- Protocol of the organizing committee is working with most countries. There will be princes, sheikhs of the Arab states, representatives of management of the Olympic committees, heads of states and government. There's quite large list, but I can't reveal any names yet.
- Are infrastructure facilities ready?
- Yes. They are 100% ready. Azerbaijan is ready for the Islamic Games. Most of the sports infrastructure facilities were built for the European Games. Some facilities have been improved, some rebuilt, some prepared from scratch, because there are sports that weren't represented at the European Games. Only minimal steps are left - branding, decoration. In short, Baku is ready for the Islamic Games.
- Are people interested in this event?
- Tickets are selling quite well, because Azerbaijani people like sports. Every family has favorite sports. Some families prefer gymnastics and volleyball, others - sports that are traditionally popular in Azerbaijan, such as wrestling, boxing, judo, and karate. Football is the world's most popular sport, that's why many Azerbaijanis will pay to see football competitions. Out team is lucky, since our people will will support them, cheer for them. It's a huge bonus, because their support is very strong. Athletes are waiting for this.