Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb.19
Opening ceremony for the FIG World Challenge Cup in Artistic Gymnastics was held on the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku Feb. 19.
Addressing the event, Ismayil Ismayilov, Azerbaijan's deputy minister of youth and sport said that artistic gymnastics is a sport enjoyed around the world and in Azerbaijan as well.
He noted that Azerbaijan has become a host country for very prestigious international competitions.
The First European Games, world and European championships, international tournaments held in the country are organized at a high level, said Ismayilov, adding that international sport organizations gladly agree to regularly hold such events in Azerbaijan.
"To justify this trust, we try to cope with our tasks with dignity with the special attention and under the leadership of the head of state, President of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev," said the deputy minister.
"I would like to emphasize that after Azerbaijan's first lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva was elected the president of Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation, the attention and interest in artistic gymnastics has significantly increased," he said.
In recent years, the development of sport in Azerbaijan has been in the spotlight of the international community, according to the deputy minister. Ismayilov noted that Azerbaijan has become the host country of very prestigious international competitions.
The First European Games, world and European championships and international tournaments are organized in the country at the highest level and in line with modern standards, he added.
Ismayilov expressed confidence that the FIG World Challenge Cup in Artistic Gymnastics will be held at the highest level as well.
President of the women's artistic gymnastics technical committee at International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG), female Olympic champion Nellie Kim has greeted the athletes, delegates and participants.
She said that the work carried out by Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation on the development of all kinds of gymnastics already bears fruit today. Baku holds the FIG World Challenge Cup in Artistic Gymnastics on an arena, which has all the necessary conditions for organizing important events, according to her.
"Today we are still at the beginning of the way that leads to the Olympics," Kim said. "Success of each gymnast contributes to the overall development of our kind of gymnastics. I express my gratitude to the local organizing committee for a responsible approach to all the types of work carried out to hold these competitions at the high level."
Kim wished success to all the athletes.
Further, addressing the opening ceremony, Vice-President of Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation Altay Hasanov greeted the athletes, guests and sport fans.
"An opening of the National Gymnastics Arena, where we have gathered today, took place in April of 2014 with participation of President of the country Ilham Aliyev and his spouse, President of Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva," he said.
"In June of the same year, the arena hosted the European Championships in Rhythmic Gymnastics," he said, adding that the competitions in six gymnastics disciplines were held on this field of play within the framework of Baku 2015 First European Games.
"Our gymnasts won seven medals at these competitions in total. Five of them passed into the possession of artistic gymnasts," said Hasanov.
He recalled that last year, for the first time in history of Artistic Gymnastics of the independent Azerbaijan, Oleg Stepko, won the bronze medal of the World Championships.
"Namely, these victories encourage us to hold the World Challenge Cup in Artistic Gymnastics for the first time today," said the AGF vice-president.
He expressed confidence that this challenge will also be fulfilled with dignity, and, in close cooperation with the International Federation of Gymnastics, organization of such tournaments in Azerbaijan will become a tradition.
"Today, there are quite strong and well-known athletes among the event's competitors. I welcome the gymnasts, members of the delegations and wish them new victories," said Hasanov.
"I am sure that we will hear about their success at the Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro," he added.
"I express my gratitude to each member of the Organizing Committee, who contributed to the organization of this competition, the audience gathered here and congratulate all of you with another gymnastics festival," said the AGF vice-president.
"I announce the FIG World Challenge Cup AGF Trophy in Artistic Gymnastics open!" he said.
Further, "The Future of Azerbaijani Gymnastics" composition was presented at the opening ceremony. Young Azerbaijani athletes participated in the composition that lasted 15 minutes and was accompanied by national Azerbaijani music.
The colorful show involved representatives of all six types of gymnastics - women's and men's artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline gymnastics, acrobatics and aerobics. Each of them performed various gymnastic elements, accompanied by the national music.
Moreover, national dances with gymnastic elements were performed during the composition.
The FIG World Challenge Cup in Artistic Gymnastics started in Baku on Feb. 19 and is to end Feb. 21. As many as 45 male and 22 female gymnasts will compete for medals in Apparatus Finals of the World Challenge Cup. In general, athletes from 19 countries will participate at the event.
Qualifications both among men and women on the first two days of the competitions will be followed by Apparatus Finals on the last day.