A glittering ceremony was held in Azerbaijan on Friday for the official launch of this year’s games, which includes almost 3,000 athletes from 54 countries.
4th Islamic Solidarity Games Kicks Off In Baku
The 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games was officially opened by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during a spectacular ceremony in the Baku Olympic Stadium on Friday night.
The theme of the show was solidarity among Islamic nations and featured pyrotechnics, dancers, musicians, horses, camels and donkeys.
According to AFP, Azerbaijani Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva addressed the crowd and said: "We are very honored to host the Games."
"Today Azerbaijan welcomes the entire Islamic world. The Baku Islamic Solidarity Games are a bright, new chapter in Azerbaijan's dynamic development.
"We can all be proud of what we have accomplished together. Our Games will send a message beyond the borders of Azerbaijan, that solidarity is our strength."
Fifty four countries have entered athletes, and 2,800 will take part.
Afghanistan is among these countries and has 17 athletes in Baku. They will participate in various sporting codes including wrestling, judo, wushu and swimming. There are also two disabled athletes among the group.
The athletes include five wushu fighters, three judoka, five wrestlers, two swimmers and two disabled athletes as well as five members of the National Olympic Committee’s delegation.
“A total of 30 athletes and coaches will attend the big event. We were ready to send 110 individuals but due to lack of government’s financial support 70 athletes were deprived of going to the event,” said Ehsanullah Nero, spokesman for the National Olympic's Committee earlier this week.
“The trip to Azerbaijan for the Islamic Solidarity Games has been facilitated by the National Olympic's Committee,” said Nazir Ahmad Naseri, a member of the disabled athlete's team.
The Islamic Solidarity Games was first held in Saudi Arabia in 2005 and drew 6,000 athletes from 55 nations competing in 15 different sports categories.
The second games, which was supposed to take place in Iran in 2009, was later cancelled due to a diplomatic crisis over the use of the term, "Gulf countries". Iran had put the term "Persian Gulf" on the logo of the tournament, while Arab nations called the same waterway as the "Arabian Gulf".
The third edition of the games was held in Indonesia in 2013. The Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF) has selected Turkey as the host of the fifth games in 2021.
Azerbaijan's envoy to Ankara Faig Bagirov told Anadolu Agency earlier this week that the games will "help increase solidarity among Muslim countries as well as turn the event into a big sports festival.
"Azerbaijan is working very hard to preserve Islam's religious and cultural values, while promoting multi-culturalism."