Author: Nadir SANANOGHLU
Obviously, the development of sports requires infrastructure as well as professionals. Back in the early years of independence, the condition of sports facilities in Azerbaijan has been unsatisfactory. Lack of venues meeting international standards and dilapidated sports equipment did not allow athletes to conduct proper training and prepare for competitions. Members of national teams had to travel outside the country for this purpose.
After Ilham Aliyev was elected president of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) back in 1997, the government has developed the development strategy for sport. With this started the construction of sports facilities to train athletes at professional level. Within a few years, Azerbaijan has become rich with facilities for most types of sport and meeting world standards. These include the Baku Olympic Stadium, National Gymnastics Arena, Aquatics Palace and other facilities, which allow for high-level training and major international competitions. The construction of a total of more than 30 complexes in Baku and the regions has increased the popular interest in sport.
Sport in the liberated territories
During the 44-day Patriotic War, the Azerbaijani army regained the occupied lands and restored the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Now Azerbaijan is interested in developing sports in the liberated territories. In his address at the ceremony on the achievements in sports in 2022, President Ilham Aliyev noted the importance of establishing sports facilities in the liberated cities: "We plan to build facilities in each of the liberated cities. The general plans of all the cities have been approved. All rehabilitation and construction works will be carried out in accordance with master plans, which suppose the creation of sports facilities as well.”
Ilham Aliyev said that the foundation of a breeding complex for the Garabagh horses was laid in 2022 in the village of Eyvazkhanbeyli, Aghdam. "During the occupation, we created a breeding complex for the Garabagh horses in the Aghjabedi district, which is also in Garabagh. However, we decided that it was necessary to create a very beautiful, modern horse breeding facility in its original place, in the village of Eyvazkhanbeyli. We have already started the works," President Aliyev said.
The sports facilities in the liberated cities can be used both for training and for organising local and international high-level competitions.
Aghdam on focus
There have been special projects developed for sports facilities in Aghdam. One of them is the design of the famous Aghdam stadium Imarat for 15,000 spectators. But it will be constructed not on the former site , but on a larger area of the city with an extensive infrastructure. This will basically be a sports city, including a football stadium and open-air and indoor gyms for various competitions. There are also plans to design a sports-oriented secondary school and a summer sports camp for children who will visit the area from other districts of Azerbaijan.
In addition to the stadium, which is designed exclusively for holding football competitions, it is also planned to build other infrastructure facilities, including an Olympic complex, a summer sports school, etc. The design of the arena was assigned to the State Committee for Urban Planning and Architecture. The Ministry of Youth and Sports, local executive authorities and a special representative of the President of Azerbaijan will be monitoring the construction works. Completion of construction works and commissioning of the complex is slated for 2026.
The construction of other sport facilities and chess schools in Garabagh is also under discussion. Before the occupation, there had been small chess schools in Zangilan, Jabrayil and Shusha, which had been destroyed or deteriorated as a result of the Armenian occupation. The size and capacity of planned facilities will be specified according to the settlement of the inhabitants and their population. The main objective is to enable young people to practise sports in an unhindered and comfortable way.
There are also plans to open a rowing facility in Sugovushan. After the area is populated, there will be created favourable conditions for the development of rowing sports. That is why the Azerbaijan Rowing and Canoe Federation will organise the first tournament in Sugovushan in 2022. The next international competition will be held here in May 2023. As soon as hotels and other facilities are constructed, athletes will have a chance to use Sugovushan as a training facility as well.
By the way, Garabagh has always been rich in strong and promising athletes. The chess family of Mammadyarovs took their first steps in Zangilan. Thirty years ago there were weightlifting facilities, chess schools and football fields in Zangilan and Jabrayil. There was also a chess school in Shusha, which had attracted not only the townspeople but also the residents of the the suburbs.
The construction of sports facilities in the liberated lands can give a major boost to the overall development of sports in Azerbaijan. This will provide new training facilities for the Azerbaijani athletes. At the same time, there will be conditions for young people to join national teams when they return to their native lands in Garabagh.