While on a visit to Moscow, Azerbaijan’s First Lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva gave an interview to “Russia-24” TV Channel of the Russian Federation.
- Hello, Mehriban khanum!
- I’m delighted to greet you here in Moscow. Recent presentation of the first European Games in Moscow was especially pleasing. The Russian, not only them, but everyone is waiting for this sports holiday with anxiety, full of joy. I would like to kindly request You to talk about how final preparations for the Games are going on and how ready Baku residents are to receive the guests.
- Thank you. First of all, I want to say that I’m delighted to be again in Moscow. I’ve studied in this city, my student years passed here. I like this city very much and I have got very pleasent memories associated with this city. Yesterday we held presentation of the first European Games in Moscow. The Organizing Committee has held such events in such cities of Europe as Rome, Paris, London, Berlin and other large cities, and, finally, we are here in Moscow. I’m very glad to hold this ceremony in Moscow, the capital of a friendly country. We have very strong and kind neighbourhood relations. Relations between Russia and Azerbaijan have been built on the very solid historical foundation. For decades, our peoples have been tied with each-other by cultural and universal relations. And these relations, having extended, turned into bilateral political and economic cooperation.
The first European Games will certainly open a new page in Europe’s sports history, and to organize, hold and receive such Games mean both great honour and great responsibility for Azerbaijan. At the same time, this is a sign of trust by the European sports society towards our country. In fact, we had been allocated very short time - just two and a half years – for the preparation works. Usually, in order to get prepared for sports events of this level, a plenty of time is required. Nonetheless, we almost did all works on time and accomplished all tasks we had to fulfil. Now, there are only two months left until the start of the Games. Final preparation works are done, all the team has focused its attention on details. However, today we can already say that Baku is ready to receive the European Games. I’m hopeful the first European Games will take place in an environment of friendship, solidarity and sound competition, and this will be a holiday of all.
- Preparation works for the Sochi Olympiad had continued till the final day. So, if You are saying that everything was ready a few months before, then it talks about your good organization capacity and discipline.
- I think such large-scale events have always required extreme attention and checking every detail. Therefore, I think we are going to face the same situation.
- Over one million onlookers are expected to come to Azerbaijan. You know that I’ve grown up in Baku, and I imagine to myself how dense it will be there. This number of people is big, very big. Will it look like the Eurovision song contest? Do you think Your experience gained from hosting a music holiday will help You?
- No doubt, our experience in preparing for and holding of the Eurovision song contest in 2012 has been very useful for us, as it was a big holiday, a music holiday; numerous organizations – both state and public entities – had been involved. In my opinion, that contest was very successful. The contest passed on quite a high level in Azerbaijan. All guests of our capital noted that the city’s environment and this holiday spirit had amazed them.
Holding of the European Games is, of course, a larger-scale and multi-planned task, nonetheless, the experience we have gained during the preparation period will, of course, always be helpful in our business.
We have established a very strong Organizing Committee and have been cooperating with international sports organizations, including the European Olympic Committee and international federations. We have been enjoying very strong support of volunteers. We have a well-established team and, based on today’s progress of works, we can say we have been handling our job very well and the targets set before us have been accomplished. You were certainly right saying that such large-scale events have always been unexpected and required being ready for everything. Therefore we try to take everything into account.
I think the Games should, first of all, be a holiday for sportsmen, as this is, first of all, a holiday of sportsmen. For example, the Athletes Village created with a view to ensuring maximum comfort for the Games participants meets very high international standards. I’m hopeful both Russian sportsmen and those coming from the European countries will feel that. There, we have created all necessary conditions both for trainings, preparation, and also for rest. We, of course, have not forgotten our guests. You mentioned correctly that we are expecting a large number of guests. We have developed an extensive cultural programme, as we want to show Azerbaijan, as a country holding these Games. Azerbaijan is an old country with rich history and culture. Of course, there are a lot of treasures – heritage and traditions - we want to display to our guests, and, taking into account that the Games will be broadcast to over 100 countries, we want, to a certain degree, to show these treasures to Europe and the world. We have developed an extensive and colourful cultural programme. I hope our guests will be satisfied.
- Azerbaijan can receive a guest. This is doubtless.
- Thank you. It is very pleasing to hear these words.
- Sports competitions should unite people with different political views, people belonging to different nations and religious confessions. How tolerance and the idea of tolerance have been taken into account in the concept of the first European Games? After all, you have to realize this idea for those who are going to host the European Games in future, and to define certain level for them.
- In general, the idea of Olympic movement means unity, equality and justice. Unfortunately, in the contemporary world, shortage of such notions forms the basis of many conflicts and hotbeds of tensions. For this reason, such an event, be it a sports even or a cultural event, has been of great significance in terms of uniting people and nations from different countries, belonging to different confessions. From this standpoint, I think Baku’s being the homeland to the first European Games is not by chance, as, from the geographical standpoint, for millennia Azerbaijan has been situated on the Great Silk Way, at the crossroads of the East and West. Different cultures, different civilizations have coexisted peacefully, representatives of different religions lived together. You can see the impact of these factors, the influence of different cultures in the architecture of our cities. Nonetheless, the most important is that this true spirit of tolerance, friendship feelings, accepting other cultures have been formed in the Azerbaijani people’s mentality for centuries. We approach our roots, our culture and traditions very delicately, with respect and care. And we treat cultural diversity of the world in the same way, which is the basis of success, as in order to be able to value what belong to him, one should appreciate and love that of others. In this case, it is by no chance that today Baku is a unique hub of multiculturalism. Last year, by a decree of the President, a Multiculturalism Centre was created in the capital. Annually held international humanitarian forums, as well as meetings on dialogue of cultures and civilizations testify to this. I would like to cite one example: this year Azerbaijan will host the first European Games and, in 2017, we will host the Islamic Solidarity Games.
- In the memories of the Russian, even may be all the Soviet peoples, Baku will always remain as an international city. I think the foundation of tolerance towards other cultures, being open to them, accepting other cultures is associated with education. Much attention has always been shown in Azerbaijan to this matter. The higher a person’s education, and culture, the more open and tolerant he will be. What can You say about the Russia-Azerbaijan cooperation, which you have been showing great attention?
- I totally agree with you, and it is obvious that countries with strong education basis, science and progress can secure their future. This is to say, investments into education are the longest and most correct investments. As to Azerbaijan, a great deal of reforms has been performed during the independence years. I would like to cite one example. There are some five thousand schools in our country. 3500 out of them have been reconstructed or built anew. Extensive reforms are also carried out in the spheres of education. Due to special state programmes, our young people have the chance to study at most influential higher schools of Europe, Russia and Asia, and this opens great opportunities for the youth.
As to the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan in cultural and humanitarian spheres, in my opinion, this is a very successful area. During the years after Azerbaijan regained its state independence, teaching in Russian has been maintained in full volume in the country. Education in over three hundred school in the country is conducted in Russian. A branch of the Moscow State University is functioning in Baku, and the number of faculties in the University is growing, which is a very positive factor. The Baku Slavic University, the Russian Drama Theatre and the Russian Culture Centre are functioning in the capital. All these are very important for Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage, as great respect is shown in the country towards the Russian language. We read the great Russian literature from original. It is of significance that future generations preserve this opportunity.
A great deal of works has been done in Russia through the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, within the framework of joint humanitarian projects. Our Foundation was founded in 2004, and it was Russia, where the first representative office of the Foundation abroad was opened in 2007. A lot of projects, social, cultural and charitable actions have been realized. A number of schools have been restored. I would like to mention one fact especially. In my opinion, it is very important that our cooperation does not confine itself to only the capital of the Russian Federation. We have been working in regions and other cities, including Astrakhan, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg and Ulyanovsk. We have very good relations. Having been extended, these relations turned into friendly relations. You know, this is very significant, as, in principle, ordinary human relations and friendly relations form the foundation of any success and jointly set targets. From this standpoint, I think the relations between our countries, based on mutual respect and interest, may be a good example of friendly, brotherly and kind neighbourhood relations.
- Apparently, another duty of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation is to popularize the culture and treasures of Azerbaijan in Russia. For the reason that Russia too, as one of the most tolerant countries of the world, is ready to learn as much as possible about its neighbours, and is interested in this.
- Certainly, we have been implementing numerous cultural projects, organizing exhibitions, various forums and workshops. We have concluded agreements with Russian libraries on cooperation, and exchange of experience. The area of activity from this standpoint is very extensive and, you have correctly mentioned that we feel interest. We feel respect, interest for the Azerbaijani culture and a disposition to master it, of course, again, by returning to our joint historical past. We feel this respect and careful attitude.
- Then our historical future will also be common.
- I’m sure it will be such.
- Let us again coma back to the topics of the first European Games. These Games are already part of our future. Could You please tell me one secret, a few delicate moments, which may not be known to the public? What are You going to surprise us by? May be You want to say something about the opening ceremony?
- As I’ve already told, two months remain until the opening ceremony. This time will be rich in trainings and preparation process. Of course, we are preparing surprises, want to amaze people. This concerns mainly the opening ceremony. This is another chance to show our traditions, history and our culture. I would not, of course, to disclose any secrets, as an opening ceremony is usually unexpected. Everyone is waiting for the ceremony, and I’m hopeful the programme we have developed will be quite interesting and amazing, and cause good emotions.
As to the peculiarities of the Games, apparently certain unexpected and interesting moments will be during the Games. This is how such events take place. I would like the peculiarities of these Games to be such: all our guests – sportsmen, members of official delegations, ordinary tourists - feel the environment of our city. I want every guest to feel the hospitality of the Azerbaijani people, as this feature is one of the nice peculiarities of the people of Azerbaijan. For us, a guest is a guest, be it one person or a thousand persons. This is a very important matter. I know today the people of Azerbaijan are waiting for guests, sportsmen, and this holiday. I would like everyone coming to the capital of our country to feel this, and this spirit, the particular spirit of the city of Baku remains in their memory. It is very pleasing that a guest coming to Baku for the first time wants to return here. Talking about this, they say: We have seen hospitality we had never seen anywhere. This is a special environment. If this is a feature of the first European Games, I would be happy.
- I wish all Your hopes come true. I wish You successes in sport. As is well-known, home walls are supportive. We have seen this in our own practice at the Sochi Olympiad. Our home walls helped us. I wish yours helped you too.
- Thank you. Thank you very much. Taking this opportunity, I would like to once more congratulate you on the high-level organization and holding of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014 and, of course, also on the Russian sportsmen’s outstanding achievements. You won the first place on the team score. This was a grandiose holiday. We were there, we saw all this. Please accept once more my congratulations.
- Thank You for your high appreciation. Now the turn is yours.
- Thank you. Thank you for this meeting. I am very pleased to have got to know you.
- Thank you.