Vyacheslav Fetisov: "I fall in love with Baku more and more every time I visit it"
110th session of the Executive Board of the UN World Tourism Organization was recently held in Baku. Ambassador of the UNWTO, legendary hockey player, State Duma deputy Vyacheslav Fetisov participated in it. Vestnik Kavkaza spoke to famous athlete and statesman about the results of this international event, as well as sports projects and sports in the Caucasus.
- Why do you think Beku was chosen as the site of the 110th session of the Executive Board of the UN World Tourism Organization?
- It's no coincidence, because Baku has recently transformed into one of the main tourist destinations in the world. A lot has been done in tourism sector there. First of all, they created modern comfort zones - and single exterior design of everything that was built in Baku lately is unique in itself. At the same time, the Old City has been preserved and became a part of modern realities. Baku is a great city. I fall in love with Baku more and more every time I come back there - its traditions, culture, hospitality became a part of people’s lifes.
It’s interesting that America showed desire to once again begin to work in the World Tourism Organization when it came to Baku. Most importantly, I think that this is an opportunity to show potential of Baku and Azerbaijan as a whole for the world tourism. All of those who came here to the 110th session of the UNWTO Executive Council really liked what they saw. This is especially noticeable when you talk to participants of the session outside working hours.
- What are your duties as ambassador of the UNWTO?
- It all depends on the person himself, how much he's interested in doing something. For me, the ambassador’s task is to maximize tourism potential and bring people together, because we live in a difficult, turbulent time, and the world has become very fragile. Tourism can be a very serious part of rapprochement process. One of the examples of this is Europa Cup finals in Baku, when British press began to spread anti-Azerbaijani propaganda, tried to frighten people, but people came anyway and saw with their own eyes that there was absolutely nothing to fear in Baku. It's clear that certain forces don't want the image of former Soviet republics to change.
By the way, similar thing happened with anti-Russian topics before the World Cup and before the Olympic Games in Sochi. Stereotypes interfere with people's understanding, but when they come and see completely different picture, they can no longer believe those who deceived them. I think that many new types of tourist activities - educational tourism, youth tourism, and so on - will help us to fulfill this task of strengthening peace and promoting the idea of peace on the planet. This is one of my today's tasks. Today we're meeting with the UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili and we will discuss all parts of our strategy. It's no coincidence that this organization invites famous athletes to become its ambassadors, since they can promote the idea of peace on Earth. I find this interesting, and I gladly accepted the offer a year ago. You can have many titles and do nothing, but I have desire to develop this area.
- What's your impression from ceremony of release of sturgeon fries in Neftchala, in which you participated yesterday?
- It was fantastic. Leyla Aliyeva is doing a lot to improve the environment, and yesterday, we spent almost the entire day with her, and I learned that she has been working for a long time, trying to convey to people the significance of environmental problems. I was amazed and pleased with her attitude to animals and to nature.
I have to say that only 10 thousand out of million sturgeon fries released into the water will survive. People need to understand how difficult life is developing and how easy it is to destroy it. Without balance, any water element will die - and if the seas and oceans die, life on earth will die. We have to think about it.
Yesterday, we have also met with academicians of the ANAS, and we once again received confirmation that Caspian Sea's ecology is a common problem not only for the Caspian littoral countries, but for the entire planet. A lot is concentrated there, and we must deal with this problem together.
- Russia is actively developing hockey in the North Caucasus. What are its prospects there?
- I once proposed this project to my fellow deputies, people from sports industry, mainly from martial arts, like Buvaysar Saytiyev, and they gladly supported the idea to develop hockey, because they understand that it's very important to diversify our sports. Ice hockey is pretty exotic in the Caucasus, but several ice rinks have already been created there, including in Chechnya, an academy named after me was opened recently. We asked the Ministry of Sports, Ministry for Caucasus Affairs to support us and received many positive responses. Khabib Nurmagomedov wrote on Instagram that he supports us, but asked "Vyacheslav Aleksandrovich, where should we play?". That's why it is necessary to build infrastructure so that this project moves on.
When it comes to Azerbaijan, we also discussed development of hockey. People I spoke with are all physically developed and understand the game, and that says a lot. Hockey is a constant combat on ice. I think that hockey will be very popular in Azerbaijan if you create appropriate infrastructure.
- Do you think you can play hockey at any age?
- President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin first played it when he was 58 years old, he had never played hockey before that, and now he is playing with interest. It's a very interesting game that I enjoy very much. As for children, you just need to choose the right technique so that they quickly fall in love and accept the game. There's an academy named after me in Domodedovo, an entire factory, where they create new methods, where we study global trends and all the good things that happen in our hockey. I have 600 kids working there - before there was no hockey school in Domodedovo, and now children are coming there and they don’t want to leave. A very important factor - 150 children from large families are playing for free, and we don't ask them to pay for equipment form. So we try to set an example in order to not discriminate against children on social basis.