Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with the disabled athletes who participated in XI Summer Paralympic Games in of Australia, Sydney - Presidential Palace, 15 November 2000

Dear athletes,

Dear friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Azerbaijani sportsmen have achieved unprecedented success and victories this year. At the Summer Olympics in Sydney, the Azerbaijani sportsmen have pleased our people and our nation with huge achievements and glorified our country for the first time. We celebrate it. However, today our society is living under the influence of the achievements by athletes at the Olympic Games in Sydney and, of course, the increase of glory of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan achieved such a success for the first time, and above all, is the result of the independence, sovereignty and freedom of Azerbaijan, the result of the development of sports in Azerbaijan in the recent years. Naturally, for the development of sports there is a need both to increase care and attention to the sports in Azerbaijan and to create conditions for the athletes. We have already noted it, and today I want to point out it once more. The National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan have great services in it. We awarded the winners and the all athletes who took part in the Olympics. Today we are pleased that another group of the Azerbaijani sportsmen attended the Paralympics in Sydney. These are our children, youth and athletes of Azerbaijan. However, they are involved in other games, because these people are suffer some physical problems.

These athletes do not lag behind other group of athletes. It is very gladdening. They returned home victoriously. They won gold and silver medals, some of them took places up to the 10th and the team took the 47th place among 125 countries which participated there. As you remember, four years ago, our athletes of this group took part in the games in Atlanta. However, they achieved not great success then. Thus, for the past four years sports have became popular in Azerbaijan. Over the past four years sports could inspire all the young people in Azerbaijan, and interest in sports among the young people has increased. Therefore, such young people could win in the Sydney Games, as opposed to the games in Atlanta. As you know, I issued an order and I awarded the athletes and today we have come to meet them.

Closing speech

Dear athletes,

I congratulate you once more. I wish all of you good health and new successes. In general, everyone needs sports. However, unfortunately, not everyone can go in for sports. Young people are mostly interested in sports. As noted here, in the past few years the sport in Azerbaijan has developed rapidly. It pleases and deserves approval that people with disabilities go in for sports and achieve such high successes in competitions. On the one hand, it shows your strong will, on the other hand, despite your disability it shows how much you insist to further improve your health, as well as to demonstrate the society your activity. It deserves praises. I believe that we need to appreciate your activities.

Indeed, both in the main game at the Summer Olympics and at the Paralympics in Sydney Azerbaijan moved forward. I said that it was a great achievement of our people, our nation, our national independence and organizations engaged in this work. At the same time, it is an achievement of everyone and every athlete who participated in Olympics, won gold and bronze medals and took a very decent place in the main Olympic Games. This is a personal achievement of each of you.

It is surprising that when a person becomes ill or he has a flaw, he becomes pessimist and cannot pull himself together. By your determination, will and ability you could eliminate your handicaps. Going from here to Sydney is a problem itself. Participation in these events, overcoming all difficulties and achieving good results, raising the flag of Azerbaijan, sounding the anthem of our country is, of course, the success of each of you, of the people of Azerbaijan and the country. You and people like you deserve respect in our society. You are the people who take an active part in public life. Therefore, I think this meeting is very valuable. You reminded here and I have not forgotten that at our meeting in August in "Ganjlik" complex I expressed to you my wishes. It is easy to wish but to carry out the wish is not so easy. They were not only my wishes. I expressed the wishes of all our people, our nation and Azerbaijan. Our main team made my wishes come true in the main Olympics, as well as you did. All this gives grounds to say that the Olympic movement in Azerbaijan is developing rapidly. This is a very important event in the social and political life of independent Azerbaijan. The task and duty of our country is to create conditions for it. National Olympic Committee, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Labour and Social Maintenance of Population dealing with people having disabilities are directly involved in the case.

This exam, handed by Olympians of our country, including Paralympians, shows that young athletes of Azerbaijan have great potential. We should use this potential together. It is necessary, first of all, because in your example the Azerbaijani youth will be more interested in sports. One of the strategic lines of our policy is to ensure the physical and mental health of the young people. One of the most important means to ensure the health is sports and physical education. I repeat that it is one of the main directions of our policy. The work you have done for achieving it and the results are an example for all our young people. We are inspired, but you have to be encouraged as well. You have to be inspired because you are example for the young people of Azerbaijan just like you. It is not accidental that the coach raised the question that many of these people want to go in for sports and we need to create conditions for them. I immediately resolved that question. You can be sure and let the young people know that this issue will be resolved. These young people will get the opportunity to go in for sports.

Your number will increase and, as you pointed out here, in the next Paralympic Games you will achieve new successes. Once more I note the achievements and successes of the Olympic movement in Azerbaijan. I wish the Olympic movement even more effective works in future. It is natural that the National Olympic Committee should carry out this work together with the Ministry of Youth and Sports. National Olympic Committee and our special ministry, the Ministry of Labour and Social Maintenance of Population are engaged in you. Once more I point out that it is your personal achievement. However, there is a need to appreciate the activities of the National Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Labour and Social Maintenance of Population, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports in achieving this level and success. You noted here that it is necessary to appreciate the activities of all the organizations that have helped you.

I want to express the hope that our organizations will rapidly continue this work with you. Once more, I congratulate you. I wish you good health and success. See you. We shall not wait for the competition in Athens, probably before it you will achieve new successes and we shall meet. However, before your departure for Athens we shall surely meet again. I hope you will come back from there with even more remarkable success. Thank you.