By Amina Nazarli
Azerbaijan sees off another sporting year. Indeed, 2016 was a very successful year for the national athletes, who won 18 Olympic medals.
The 31st Summer Olympic Games in Rio went into the history of the Azerbaijani sport as one of the brightest pages. Azerbaijan’s history-making athletes have secured the country’s biggest Olympic medal haul for the past 25 years of Azerbaijan’s independence.
The country has sent a team of 56 athletes to the Rio Games, where our heroes won 18 medals.
Overall, the Azerbaijani athletes showed brilliant performances in both domestic and international competitions, winning 827 medals in 2016.
Youth and Sports Minister Azad Rahimov revealed that some 297 of the medals won are gold, 250 are silver and 290 are bronze.
Moreover, the country has hosted many international competitions, including the World Chess Olympiad, FIG World Challenge Cup in Artistic Gymnastics, the eighth round of the European Grand Prix, 2016 UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals and so on.
The minister said that in tote, the country hosted 203 national and 52 international competitions.
A look to 2017
In the forthcoming year, the country is preparing to host the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games with a record number of the participants -- 57 have confirmed their participation.
Preparations to the Games scheduled for May run in accordance with the plan, said Rahimov.
"About 60 specialists invited from abroad are involved in preparations. However, most professionals involved in the process are nationals," he said.
The work on the opening and closing ceremonies are underway, according to the minister, who added that cultural programs will also be held to acquaint foreign athletes with the culture of Azerbaijan.
The 4th Islamic Solidarity Games to be held from May 12-22 will welcome over 5,000 athletes to compete in 20 sports disciplines during the 12 days of competition.
The decision to hold the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku was made at the eighth General Assembly of the ISSF in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in July 2013.
The official opening ceremony and closing of the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games will be held at the Baku Olympic Stadium.