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Azerbaijan is hosting yet another high-profile international sporting event as a solemn opening ceremony of Baku 2019 15th Summer European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) has been held at the Baku Crystal Hall.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Head of the National Olympic Committee Ilham Aliyev, first lady Mehriban Aliyeva, as well as President of the European Olympic Committees Janez Kocijančič and heads of delegates of the participating states attended the event.
European Youth Olympic Festival is held under the patronage of the IOC, and is the pride of the European Olympic Committees with 25 years of tradition. EYOF is the first top European multi-sport event aimed at young athletes aged 14 to 18. There is a winter and a summer edition, which take place in two-year cycles, in odd-numbered years. The EYOF belongs to the European Olympic Committees (EOC).
The event takes place under the Olympic flag, and is rich with Olympic traditions: from the burning flame to athletes’ and officials’ oaths. It is at the EYOF that many of Europe’s inspiring sports stars of tomorrow take their first steps on the international stage. And while some may enjoy EYOF as a stepping-stone to Olympic greatness, all who participate take home friendships and experiences to last a lifetime.
Baku 2019 will feature seven days of competition in 10 sports at 12 competition venues, all of which are already existing, making this edition of the EYOF also one of the most sustainable. Wrestling will join the EYOF program for the first time this year.
Approximately 3,600 young people and their officials take part in the summer festivals, while there are around 1,600 participants at the winter editions. The competitions consisting of 10 sports (Artistic Gymnastics, Athletics, Basketball, Cycling, Handball, Judo, Swimming, Tennis, Volleyball, and Wrestling) will involve over 2500 volunteers.
A total of 122 Azerbaijani athletes will vie for medals at the European Youth Olympics Festival to be held in Baku from July 21-27.
The solemn opening ceremony of the 15th Summer Youth Olympic Festival kicked off at 20:00 local time.
The national anthem of the Republic of Azerbaijan was played.
The state flag of Azerbaijan was carried and raised by servicemen of the National Guard under the accompaniment of the national anthem.
Then the traditional parade of athletes began.
The Parade of Nations is led by Greece to honour the birthplace of the Olympics. Other teams follow in alphabetical order, with the exception of the host nation who conclude the parade. So this evening, that’s Azerbaijani team.
The winner of 2018 Summer Youth Olympics and European Cup judoka Vugar Talibov, 15, is the flagbearer of the Azerbaijani national team.
President Ilham Aliyev, first lady Mehriban Aliyeva and the audience applauded the Azerbaijani athletes.
Following the parade, a promotional film highlighting Azerbaijan's history, culture, nature, traditions, as well as sights of capital Baku was screened.
Azerbaijan’s First Deputy Prime Minister, chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 15th Summer European Youth Olympic Festival Yagub Eyyubov and President of the European Olympic Committees Janez Kocijančič entered the stage to deliver speeches.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev declared the 15th Summer European Youth Olympic Festival open.
The International Olympic Committees’ flag is carried into the stadium by famous Azerbaijani athletes and Olympic champions, Elnur Mammadli (judo), Zemfira Meftahatdinova (shooting), Nazim Huseynov (judo), Namig Abdullayev (wrestling), Rafiga Shabanova (handball) and Lyudmila Shubina (handball).
The flag of the International Olympic Committee was raised beside the flag of the host nation - the Republic of Azerbaijan - under the accompaniment of this organization's anthem.
After raising the flag, a solemn oath-taking ceremony was held.
Fakhriyya Taghizade took an oath on behalf of the athletes, while Alakbar Hasanov on behalf of the referees, and Rashad Abdurrahmanov on behalf of the coaches, pledging honour and fair play, honesty and integrity.
Then came the most exciting moment as Greco-Roman Wrestling Olympic gold medallist at Athens 2004 Farid Mansurov brought the torch of the 15th European Youth Olympic Festival to light the cauldron in the Baku Crystal Hall. The torch of the 15th European Youth Olympics Festival will keep on burning and serving as the beacon of the city until the end of the festival.
A "Victory Elements" show was demonstrated after the lighting of the torch. The first part of the art show for the opening ceremony of the European Youth Olympic Festival is called "Welcome to Azerbaijan!" Yes, this is Baku. Both ancient and very modern. Baku is a city that protects its traditions and yet is open to innovation. A symbol of this innovation is the young people – active and full of energy. About 500 young people were involved in the creation of the entire art show. Today's story is about the road leading to victory.
Then a scene called "A Legend of the Wind" was presented. The main characters of this story are a boy and a girl. Together with their parents, they tell the story of wind, one of the symbols of Baku. Azerbaijan is the Land of Fire and Baku is a city of winds. It is located on the peninsula surrounded by the Caspian Sea, and is open to winds from all three sides.
Then a composition called “Emergence of the City” was demonstrated. The city's spirit opens its eyes. One wants to create, love and live in this city. The emergence of the city is symbolically demonstrated on the stage.
This is followed by a vocal-choreographic composition called the "City Day Holiday". Vocalists, musicians, dancers and actors come on stage. To get to know the people of any country, one should probably look at how they celebrate their holidays. The holidays of Azerbaijani people are rich in cultural abundance, national features and folk traditions. Of course, every visitor appreciates the famous Azerbaijan hospitality.
Another highlight of the opening ceremony is called “The Elements". “The Book of Life”, "The Fire", "The Khari-bulbul Flower", "The Bread" and "The Olive Branch" – each of these symbols epitomizes tradition, the energy of generations and folk culture. Athletes from the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation act on the stage.
"The Book of Life" – the wisdom of our predecessors and the power of their spirit help us choose the right path. The book of life is a source of wisdom and knowledge.
“The Fire” represents faith in the spirit and the power of the nation. It inspires people. The Atashgah Zoroastrian temple attracted pilgrims from all over the world for centuries with its eternal flames: years and centuries have passed, the world is changing, but the temple still stands in its place, shedding light on the paths of those in need. The flames spurting from under the ground always help our athletes on the road to victory.
"The Khari-bulbul Flower" – a flower of unprecedented beauty can be found only in Azerbaijan. By its appearance, it looks like a nightingale: two petals resemble wings, while the one in the center looks like a bird with a bill. Hence the flower’s name: "khar" translates from Azerbaijani as a "thorn", while "bulbul" means a nightingale. There are many legends and stories surrounding this exquisite and elegant flower.
"The Bread" – a loaf of bread cooked by your mother gives you the power to live. The generation, the power of faith and the love of the Motherland bring the hero to the path of victory. The performance of Mugham starts at this moment. In 2008, UNESCO proclaimed Mugham as one of the masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
"The Victory" – athletes need strength and agility, energy and endurance, courage and accuracy. All these qualities are now being demonstrated by young Azerbaijani athletes in the arena. Each of these athletes, of course, is worthy of the olive branch, is a symbol of victory.
In the end, the "Final" composition of the opening ceremony began. All participants of the European Youth Olympics Festival Baku2019 remember their own journey and hope that this path will lead them to success. We wish all the athletes the best of luck, strong competition and the determination to win. Let the bread, which is reminiscent of the homeland, the fire, the book that gives the power and wisdom of the ancestors, and the Khari-bulbul, a symbol of peace and love, be with them at all times. This will bring closer the moment when they will lift the olive branch, a symbol of victory, over their heads.
Finally, the flags of all the participating countries were waved in the arena.
This ended the official opening ceremony of the 15th European Youth Olympic Festival Baku 2019.
Thus, Azerbaijan has written yet another page in the chronicle of hosting prestigious festivals that have enchanted spectator audiences all over the world.