POSTED: May 9th 2012
Baku 2020: Paralympic sports in Azerbaijan would get a boost from the Olympics
LAURA WALDEN / Sports Features Communications
May 9 – Two top Azerbaijan Paralympians Ilham Zakiyev and Afaq Sultanova are speaking out that having the Olympics on home turf would be a huge boost for disabled sports in the country.
The two judo athletes both support the bid and even though disabled sports have grown in recent times hosting the Games would take them to a new level.
Zakiyev, himself a fifth Dan black belt and double gold medal winner, said, “To bring the Paralympic Games to Baku would be fantastic for disabled athletes throughout the entire region. This bid represents a unique opportunity for the world to discover modern Baku, and to encourage our young people with disabilities to participate in sports and to get inspired to realise their full potential in life.”
He is also a three-times European and twice world champion, “The government is already building a number of facilities for Paralympic sports around the country, but I am certain that this programme would accelerate enormously if we are successful in our Bid. Even now, while we are still only bidding, it is already boosting the profile of Paralympic sports in Azerbaijan.”
Sultanova has been a world champion both in 2010 and 2011 and added, “You can see the number of elite Azerbaijani Paralympic athletes increasing year by year. In Beijing, there were 18 in our team, but already for London we have 22 qualifications and we are expecting to have 25 overall.
“Competing at this high level demonstrates that, despite whatever disability we may have, there is no limit to what we can achieve. That is an incredibly important message to get out to everyone in Azerbaijan – not just relating to sport, but in every aspect of life.
“The Paralympic Games is a truly inspirational event. It teaches us all to believe in ourselves – and in our unlimited potential to achieve whatever we set out to do.”
Disabled sports are on the rise in Azerbaijan with new sports disciplines and also new venues as there is also a sports facility for visually impaired athletes currently under construction in Baku. The government is also planning two new Paralympic sports centers in Ganja and Nakhichevan.
Baku is in the 2020 bid race with Doha, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo to host the summer Games and the final decision will be taken on September 7th of 2013.
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