Handball underway with three days until Opening ceremony

9 May 2017

The 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games continued to ease into action as defending handball champions Algeria suffered a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia and more of the 3,500 athletes arrived in Baku on Tuesday.

The African team were brushed aside 26-13 at the Sarhadchi Arena, before Turkey saw off Morocco 27-24 to get their first win of the Games on the board after the football side's 2-1 loss to Algeria on Monday.

Algeria are in Group A of the men's handball tournament, along with Pakistan and hosts Azerbaijan.

The home nation kicked into gear with a 0-0 draw in Group A of the football competition on Monday evening, as a capacity 5,000-strong crowd at the Bayil Arena failed to roar them past the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.

Morocco lead that group table after edging out Saudi Arabia, while Algeria head Group B thanks to a dramatic late show that stole them a 2-1 victory over Turkey.

It is a low-key start to the Games with the opening ceremony at the Baku Olympic Stadium on Friday night, which is when the fourth Solidarity Games will really come to life.

Five thousand people have worked on the ceremony, as Azerbaijan looks to better its efforts from the inaugural European Games two years ago.

"We have worked really hard to make the ceremonies distinctly different," said director of ceremonies and executive producer Catherine Ugwu.
"Both have taken Azerbaijan as a starting point, but whereas with the European Games we very much looked to the west, this time we very much look to the east."

The athletes from all 57 of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation countries have been arriving at the athletes' village over the last week, which is situated between the Olympic Stadium and the National Gymnastics Arena.

Four continents will be represented in Azerbaijan, with 17 athletes on their way from Guyana.

Turkey has sent the largest team with 345 athletes and in the village are staying next to near neighbours and traditional good friends Azerbaijan, which has 10 fewer competitors.

Just two athletes make up the smallest team for Niger, while Sierra Leone's sole 2016 Paralympian George Wyndham is also competing.

His usual sport is para-table tennis, but he is taking part in para-javelin, shot put and discus.

"I've been doing track and field for over 15 years, but this is just the second time I will be doing it for my country, after the 2015 African Games in Brazzaville," he said.

"I went home and worked very hard to do what was necessary to be a champion one day. I've worked through my mistakes and now everything is okay. I'm here to win one of the medals."

Thursday is the first day with multiple sports running concurrently, as the volleyball also begins.

Cold and windy just two weeks ago, the weather in Baku was hotting up nicely in time for Friday's opening ceremony.

Official Partners
Official Supporters