Azerbaijan target top spot in Solidarity Games

11 May 2017

Azerbaijan officials said on Thursday that they expect the host nation to finish top of the medals table at the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku.
The Games get underway in the country's capital on the western shore of the Caspain Sea on Friday with the hosts widely expected to go one better than the second place they managed in the European Games medal tally in 2015.

"The Islamic countries are still an unknown quantity in terms of sport and athletics. Our target was third place at the European Games. At these games, our target is first," said Chingiz Huseynzade, the vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan surpassed expectations at the inaugural 2015 European Games, which Baku hosted, notching up 21 gold medals, with only powerhouse Russia - who won 79 golds - beating them.

But Huseynzade warned that plenty of improvement was needed in the country if Azerbaijan athletes are to become a global force in sports.
"We need to develop sport further in Azerbaijan. We need to engage coaches and athletes and get participation levels up," added Huseynzade at a conference in Baku.

The Solidarity Games suffered a late blow after three countries - Libya, Kuwait and Sudan - withdrew from the event reducing the number of participating nations from the maximum 57 to 54.

Azerbaijan's Minister for Youth and Sports, Azad Rahimov, expressed his disappointment at the late withdrawals but preferred to focus on the excitement on the eve of Friday's Opening Ceremony at the Baku National Stadium.

"We made arrangements for all athletes from all countries to be accommodated at a proper level. We are very disappointed that three countries have decided to pull out, but we respect their decision."

"We are very excited. Baku is ready," added Rahimov.

Despite the Games not yet officially beginning, some competitions have already got underway with handball and football kicking off earlier this week.

Sparse crowds have been evident in both sports despite officials claiming that tickets were close to selling out.

Football is a hugely popular sport in Azerbaijan, but the Azeris' tournament opener against Cameroon, which ended in a 0-0 draw, could only generate a meagre attendance at the Bayil Arena in the capital.

"There are loads of football matches so perhaps people decided not to go to the first one," explained Rahimov. "Crowds have since started to improve," he added.

Forty-six of the 54 participating countries have now arrived in Baku with officials expecting the other eight teams to check into the athletes' village in the next 24 hours.

Four stars who shone brightest in Baku
Azerbaijan are top as Solidarity Games end
Azerbaijan set for Solidarity Games glory
Showdown time for Azerbaijan and Turkey
Azerbaijan and Turkey neck-and-neck as Iran tighten grip on third
Sharing of the spoils at Baku 2017
Azeris and Turks in command at Solidarity Games
Azerbaijan, Turkey on top at Solidarity Games
Turkmenistan vs Palestine Men’s Volleyball Match Cancelled
Two years on, Baku goes it alone at Solidarity Games
Cameroon going for gold in Baku
Baku 2017 will provide full accessibility for all 17 venues
Azerbaijan harbouring high hopes a week from Games opening
First teams arrive as Baku prepares to kick into action
Cameroon looking to progress at Solidarity Games
Bahrain targets three sports at Games
George is Guyana's top medal hope
Malaysia focusing on improvement rather than results
Home hopes bidding for glory in Baku
Azerbaijan seek medals blitz at Games
Jordan eager for combat sports glory
Solidarity Games coming over Baku horizon
Exhibition of flags by young artists
Baku 2017 to launch innovative 'Skype zone'
Baku ready for the Games
Mass workout in Baku
Baku 2017 promotional film released
Visas not needed for media & participants
Baku 2017 flashmob
"Ireli" Public Union supported the Games
Baku 2017 to be broadcast in 34 countries
Team sport draw results announced
Medals unveiled
History of March Genocide
Media accreditation deadline extended
Diplomatic briefing
Women in Sport
Celebrating Physical Education & Sport Day
Paintball tournament to celebrate Day of Sport
Official uniform revealed
Anti-doping agency to monitor Baku 2017
Official hashtags announced
Date of ticket sale launch announced
Interview with Minister of Youth & Sports, Azad Rahimov
EL-1 competition held to celebrate Baku 2017 Games
100 days to go celebrations
Interview with Head Coach of Azerbaijan’s Powerlifting Federation
Jayne Pearce: We are delighted to be working with AZERTAC
Registration to Ceremonies Performer at Baku 2017 is now closed
Baku 2017 Games hosts Open Day for National Olympic Committees
Mehriban Aliyeva is conferred on a high order of the European Olympic Committees
Ilham Aliyev chaired the first meeting of the organizing committee of the 4th ISG
The organizing committee for IV ISG in Baku 2017
Signed agreement about IV Islamic Solidarity Games
Official Partners
Official Supporters