The 4th Islamic Solidarity Games kick off in Baku

The Baku Olympic Stadium, which was built for the first European Games, is now packed. The facility has been transformed into an enormous theatre space equipped with a state-of-the-art projection system. The stage design – an interlaced pattern of circles forming a central hexagon in tribute to the extraordinary geometric designs characteristic of Islamic art – features two minarets, each 28m high.

The vast screen (85m wide by 35m high) is filled with rich video content developed over many months – from hyper-real animations to stunning cinematic sequences.

More than 5,000 people from 31 different countries have helped make the Baku 2017 Ceremonies a reality, including production staff, technical crew and cast.

The Ceremony is brought to life by 2,200 volunteer performers from Azerbaijan. They are joined on stage by more than 40 animals – horses, camels and donkeys. The music to be heard in tonight’s Ceremony – performed by more than 100 world-class musicians – features works written by more than a dozen Azerbaijani composers, including the legendary Uzeyir Hajibayli, Fikret Amirov and Gara Garayev.

Two world-renowned performers from Azerbaijan will be with us in the Stadium this evening: mugham vocalist Alim Qasimov and percussionist Natig Shirinov.

Azerbaijan is hosting another high-profile international sporting event as the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games are set to begin in minutes.

In July 2013, Baku was announced as the host city for the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games – an exciting multi-sport event uniting the Islamic world.

Athletes from more than 50 Islamic countries will come together from 12 to 22 May 2017 to represent their nations over 10 days of competition across 20 different sports.

They include 24 disciplines (Athletics and Para Athletics, Aquatics: Diving, Aquatics: Swimming, Aquatics: Water Polo, Basketball

3x3, Boxing, Football, Gymnastics: Artistic, Gymnastics: Rhythmic, Handball, Judo and Blind Judo, Karate, Shooting, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Wrestling: Greco-Roman, Wrestling: Freestyle, Wushu and Zurkhaneh) in 16 state-of-the-art competition venues across Baku.

The Organising Committee was set up by decree of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. The committee is headed by First Vice President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva.

The Azerbaijan Islamic Solidarity Games Operations Committee (AISGOC) is organizing and running the Games in cooperation with the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF).

Azerbaijan has hosted a number of major events in the past few years. In 2015, the inaugural European Games and the Chess World Cup were held in Baku. The following year, Azerbaijan hosted the World Chess Olympiad, Arena Polo World Cup, UEFA European Under-17 Championship and AGF Trophy World Cup 2016 Rhythmic Gymnastics Finals.

Looking ahead, in the summer of 2017 the Azerbaijan Grand Prix will see Formula 1 cars racing through the streets of Baku for the second year running; and later in the year, the Women’s European Volleyball Championship will be held in the city. In 2020, Azerbaijan will host the European Karate Championship, plus three group stage football matches and a quarter-final of the UEFA Euro Championship at the Baku Olympic Stadium.

Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games launched the Journey from the Caspian, which started with a ceremony at the Stone Chronical Museum on April 5. During the launch ceremony, 16 children from across Azerbaijan were presented with a copper Baku 2017 Water Vessel, containing water from the Caspian Sea, which they took back to their home towns and cities. In doing so, they brought the spirit of the Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games to the people of Azerbaijan.

Over the course of its journey, which exceeded 3,000 km in 37 days, the Journey from the Caspian visited spectacular water locations across Azerbaijan.

Highlighting the importance of the Islamic Solidarity Games, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev says: “Today the Islamic world needs unity and solidarity like never before. Therefore, declaration of 2017 as “The Year of Islamic Solidarity” in Azerbaijan is a goodwill message to the Muslim community and to the whole world. Major goals of “The Year of Islamic Solidarity” are to strengthen unity in the Muslim world and to show the whole world that Islam is a religion of peace and culture. I think that apart from being a sporting event, the Islamic Solidarity Games will be the days of unity and solidarity of the Islamic world.”

Mascots of the Games are Inje and Jasur – Karabakh horses, a national treasure of Azerbaijan. Inje personifies compassion and beauty, while Jasur embodies expertise and bravery. These horses are felt to be very symbolic of the Islamic Solidarity Games.

Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games have four core values: Unity, Peace, Respect, and Excellence. The motto of the Games is “Solidarity is our strength!”

Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz, President of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation, says: “I would like to thank the people of our wonderful host nation – Azerbaijan – and First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva for her leadership as Chair of the Baku 2017 Organising Committee. Azerbaijan is passionate about sport, and has shown unwavering commitment to hosting an event of the highest standard. I have no doubt that these Games will be a credit to the hard work and commitment of Baku 2017’s organisers and volunteers, and that our athletes will be provided with the perfect conditions in which to excel.”

Azad Rahimov, Minister of Youth and Sport of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Chief Executive Officer of Azerbaijan Islamic Solidarity Games Operations Committee, says this evening’s Ceremony will be “an unforgettable celebration of unity and solidarity, as Azerbaijan honours its heritage while continuing to build a reputation as a centre for international exchange and major sporting events, including the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this summer and UEFA European Football Championship matches in 2020”. “The Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games are the culmination of over 20 months of careful planning and preparation, and we are ready to host thousands of athletes at 16 state-of-the-art sporting venues.”

Catherine Ugwu, Director of Ceremonies and Executive Producer, says: “These Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku come at a critical moment in world history. A time marked by uncertainty and discord, when our differences seem to divide rather than unite us. Tonight, our Ceremony seeks instead to focus on what brings us together, as nations and as people.” “Ours is a universal story of peace rooted in the culture and traditions of Azerbaijan. A timely reminder of the enormous contributions Islamic civilisation has made to everything we see and do today. A tale of solidarity and hope filled with optimism for our collective future. Thousands of people from across the world have worked many months to make this Ceremony a reality – I’d like to thank them all for their creativity, passion and commitment.

My heartfelt gratitude goes to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, the First Vice President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Chair of the Baku 2017 Organising Committee, Mehriban Aliyeva, and the Minister of Youth and Sport, Azad Rahimov.”

Nathan M. Wright, Artistic Director, says: “At the heart of our Ceremony is a little girl from Baku, Mina. We follow her on a journey of discovery, guided by her friendly kite. Along the way she learns about her identity and heritage, her beliefs and dreams. By the end, her hope for the future is all-embracing, her joy an inspiration. Mina’s story is a celebration of the power of community and unity. A wish, for a better world living in peace and harmony.

Creating this Ceremony – living and working in beautiful Baku, learning about the rich culture of Azerbaijan and the extraordinary accomplishments of Islamic civilisation – has been a true privilege.” Azertag