Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the meeting with Azerbaijani athletes competing in Baku Chess Olympiad

Dear friends,

It is a very remarkable day in Azerbaijan today. The 42nd Chess Olympiad is opening in Baku. I would like to congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on this occasion. This is a major international event for our country.

It is already a tradition for Azerbaijan to host prestigious international events. As you know, Azerbaijan has successfully hosted European and world championships. Azerbaijan is already known in the world as a developed country. The vast majority of visitors to Azerbaijan return to their countries with pleasant impressions. I am sure that all the chess players competing at this Olympiad will have the chance to familiarize themselves with our city and country, will like Azerbaijan in the next two weeks and perhaps come back here as tourists in the future.

The fact that international sports events are held in Azerbaijan shows the power of our country and international respect for Azerbaijan. Last year’s first European Games were held very successfully. It is possible to say that they were held at the level of summer Olympic Games. This year, we have hosted the Formula-1 Grand Prix, which has an audience of 500 million people. Next year, we will host Islamic Solidarity Games. The World Chess Olympiad starts today. According to the information I have, representatives of 175 countries will take part in the Olympiad, and this is a record figure.

In this Olympiad, Azerbaijan will be represented by three men’s and three women’s teams. I wish you good luck. You have successfully represented in Azerbaijan in numerous international competitions. You have shown good results. Our men’s team has been European champion two times. They have also performed well in a number of other international competitions. Our leading chess players are always rated among the world’s top players. So we are hopeful that you will represent the country with dignity in this competition as well.

I would like to say that most of our chess players, in fact all of them, are young. You are look good, and this is a great success of the independent Azerbaijan. You have emerged in the years of independence. Some of you were born in the years of independence. There is a bright future in store for you. You have achieved a lot in chess, and I am sure that you will find yourselves a proper place in life, and you have done that already. This is evidence that our people can develop successfully and fast only in the period of independence. Both in sports competitions and in all other areas, if we look at the history of Azerbaijan, the period of independence is the most successful. Why? Because our people are free and our fate is in our own hands. We lead Azerbaijan forward confidently. The people of Azerbaijan are seeing the benefits of independence. In sport, including chess, our biggest achievements were made in the years of independence.

In the recent Rio Olympics, our athletes set a new record. For the number of medals, we finished 14-15th globally. Our chess players have also reached great heights. I am sure that you will always delight us in the future.

The development of chess is a state policy in Azerbaijan. There are chess schools in all our cities and districts. This tradition was established by great leader Heydar Aliyev in the 1970s. Unfortunately, most of the chess schools were either shut down or sold in auctions in the early years of independence. They were replaced by shops and restaurants. This is very unfortunate. Only after Heydar Aliyev returned to Azerbaijan did chess return to its proper level. The great leader has repeatedly met with our young chess players at the time. I always see that famous picture at the opening ceremonies of chess schools in our districts – Teymur, Shahriyar, the late Vugar and Gadir.

-How old were you at the time, Shahriyar?

Shahriyar Mammadyarov: I was 10.

– The children were gathered around Heydar Aliyev, and this had a tremendous symbolic meaning. This is a new generation. A new, smart and intelligent generation. He was certain that you achieve great heights, and it happened. I also remember trying in the mid-1990s to help young chess players. I am trying to do this as President now. I am pleased that our chess players delight us, our people. You know better than anyone else that chess is an intellectual game. It shows the intellectual level of our people. We are strong both in combat sports and in intellectual sports.

I congratulate you on all your successes. I wish you good luck in this competition. I am pleased that young chess players are also taking part. I am sure that you will always please us in the future too. Once again, I congratulate you and wish you good luck.”