Baku, Azerbaijan, April 28
A dinner reception was given in honor of participants of the 77th Congress of the International Sport Press Association (AIPS).
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the ceremony.
Azerbaijani president addressed the event, and congratulated members of the International Sport Press Association on its 90th anniversary.
Saying that holding the 77th Congress of AIPS in Azerbaijan was of great importance, President Ilham Aliyev noted "it will give us a chance to present our country".
President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan has made great achievements in 22 years of its independence, adding "a lot has been done during this period in the development of sport and support of the Olympic movement."
"We held numerous international events in Azerbaijan, including European and world championships. Our athletes achieved good results on international arena," he said.
"Our first participation at the Summer Olympic Games was in 1996 when we had only one medal. At the last Olympics in London we won 10 medals, and two of them were gold medals. And we stood at number 30 among 200 nations. This is the reflection of development of sports and attitude of the state and public institutions to development of sports," the head of state said.
Noting that big investment was made to develop the sports infrastructure, President Ilham Aliyev noted more than 40 Olympic centers were built all around the country.
The head of state noted Azerbaijan would host the first European Games next year.
"This is a great responsibility, big challenge. At the same time, it is an opportunity for us to present our country," he noted."We plan to organize these Games at the level of Summer Olympic Games."
"I'd like to use this opportunity to invite all of you to be among our guests next year at the Baku Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony. In 2016 we will host the world chess Olympiad, and in 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games.
And this is also an indication of our geographical location, our culture, and today`s Azerbaijan. Within two years we will have European Games and Islamic Games. Azerbaijan is a Muslim country, but a country with strong connections to Europe. These connections go back to the 19th century. Now these ties are, of course, much stronger, because we base this relationship on partnership grounds."
Noting traditions of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan are very strong, the head of state said that multiculturalism is Azerbaijan's state policy.
"We highly value the religious and ethnic tolerance," the president underscored.
AIPS president Gianni Merlo said it was a great success for AIPS to celebrate its 90th anniversary and hold its 77th congress in Azerbaijan.
Saying he visited Baku four years ago, Gianni Merlo praised development taking place in the city. He said AIPS was doing a lot to develop sport, and also implementing important social projects.
Gianni Merlo expressed confidence the first European Games would be organized at the top level.
After that Gianni Merlo presented President Ilham Aliyev a keepsake on behalf of the International Sport Press Association.