‘Baku 2019’ Summer EYOF officially open

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, hosted Opening Ceremony of XV Summer European Youth Olympic Festival. Grandiose event was held at architectural masterpiece of Baku city - Baku Crystal Hall. It's worth mentioning that the venue hosted such big international events as World Chess Olympiad and 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.
European Youth Olympic Festival is being held under the Olympic flag and has 28 years of history. 14-18 aged athletes compete in various sports. Olympic Festival is held every second odd year and have winter and summer editions. The event incorporates all the elements of the Olympic games from the Olympic torch to the Olympic oath. This competition is a great opportunity for young athletes to show their talents and gain experience on their way to the Olympic greatness. Olympic Festival also symbolises friendship ties between the athletes. 

This is the XV EYOF with more than 3600 athletes and technical officials arriving in Baku. They have all gathered at the Athletes Village where they can feel the Olympic spirit. This venue is surely a doorway to the Olympic Games for all of them. 

Athletes will compete in 10 sports - gymnastics, basketball, cycling, handball, judo, swimming, tennis, athletics, volleyball and wrestling. More than 3500 volunteers are working at 12 venues during the Festival. 

The Opening Ceremony begun with the official greeting of the participants and guests. Video about Azerbaijan was screened on a large screen of Baku Crystal Hall. Later Azerbaijan National Guard brought national flag of Azerbaijan to the venue and national anthem of Azerbaijan was played.

This was succeeded by participant countries entering the venue accompanied with their national flags. 48 countries are being represented at 'Baku 2019' Summer EYOF. Greece has launched the athletes parade with host country Azerbaijan finishing it. Judo wrestler Vuqar Talibov was a flag-bearer of Azerbaijan. 

First deputy of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the head of Summer European Youth Olympic Festival Organizing Committee Yaqub Eyyubov. He noted that Azerbaijan has now became one of the global sport centres with help of the President of Azerbaijan Republic and the President of National Olympic Committee Ilham Aliyev. According to his speech, President Ilham Aliyev leads Azerbaijan to modern, global, stable and democratic development with about 50 Olympic sport complexes functioning in the country and serving people. 
European Olympic Committee president Janez Kocijancic greeted President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva and all participants of the Festival, wishing good luck to the athletes: “To us, representatives of the fifty European Olympic Committees come to Baku, the city of winds in the land of fire, is like to come home. Four years ago we organised with your invaluable help the first edition of the European Games. The Games were a magnificent experience and, after the second edition in Minsk in Belarus and the decision that we will organise the third games in the city of Krakow and the region of Malopolska in Poland, we can say that together we have started a new tradition.  We have laid the foundation for the new European Olympic Heritage.”
European Olympic Committee president Janez Kocijancic pleased the local audience by finishing his speech in Azerbaijani language. 
Then President of Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev announced the opening of XV Summer European Youth Olympic Festival. 
Prominent Azerbaijani athletes such as handball players and Olympic champions Rafiqa Shabanova and Lyudmila Shubina, judo wrestlers Nazim Huseynov and Elnur Mammadli, sport shooter Zemfira Meftahaddinova and freestyle wrestler Namiq Abdullayev brought the flag of International Olympic Committee and raised it under the Olympic anthem.

Then according to the Olympic traditions, the Olympic Oath was performed with Fakhriyya Tagizade and Sabir Jafarov, Alakbar Hasanov and Sadi Quliyev, Ramiz Ramizzade and Asgarkhan Novruzov making a promise on behalf of the athletes, officials and coaches, respectively. 

Olympic flame was lit afterwards at Baku Crystal Hall. The flame was brought to the venue by the Olympic champion Farid Mansurov after it made a journey through sport venues of the city. The flame will now grace Baku Crystal Hall for seven competition days.  

Creative block of the Opening started with "Welcome to Azerbaijan" piece. Approximately 500 young people worked on creative block. Tunzale Agayeva performed “I am Proud to be Azerbaijani” song accompanied by theatre groups, parkour and break dance performers, dancers and acrobats. Most of them consisted of volunteers with no professionals and foreigners among them. Clothes and make-up was also made by local artists. Today's story was about the road to success. 

“Legend about wind” show was portrayed by boy and girl characters. Their parents told them about the connection between wind and the city. Azerbaijan is the Land of Fire while Baku is the City of Winds. Baku is located on a peninsula surrounded by Caspian Sea in an area open to wind from three different angles. Girl was standing under hot sun while blowing flower petals which were taken away by the wind. 

Dancers performed "Birth of the City" scene with decorative bricks. They expressed desire of the people to live, create and love in this city through their dance moves. Decorations and props were used to show how the city was built in a dynamic way. 

"City Day" vocal-choreographic piece was presented afterwards by dancers and acrobats. The best way to get to know the nation is through learning how its people celebrate holidays. Azerbaijani holidays convey rich culture, national colours and traditions. And of course we should mention renowned Azerbaijani hospitality, too. 

Parents gave advises to children to help them go through ups and lows of life and keep their spirits up. They also gave them Bread, Fire, Book of Life, Khari bulbul and Olive branch, all of which symbolise the energy of centuries and culture of the nation. Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation athletes performed as artists here. 

Book of Life helped the characters choose the right path as it includes wisdom and spirit of our ancestors. 

Then Boy and Girl heroes found themselves surrounded by many people's reflections in the mirror. The endless labyrinth made them upset and that's when Fire came to their rescue. Ateshgah fire temple used to attract people pilgrims for centuries. Time flies but the temple remains and lights the way of tormented people.

Acrobatic and dance techniques symbolised rivalry while children were protected from injustice with help of Khari bulbul flower. The flower, symbolising peace and love, grows only in Azerbaijan. Khari bulbul reminds nightingale with two petals reminiscent of nightingale's wings and the largest petal in the middle reminding the bird's head. There are many legends around this magnificent flower. 
Children faced many difficulties while meeting faceless people. That's when Mother's Bread helps them by giving them energy and power to move on. It was the power and faith of the family along with love to Motherland that brought the characters back to the road leading to success. This was followed by mugham which was added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2008. 

Single desire is not enough to win. One also needs strength, agility, stamina, bellicosity and accuracy. These features were depicted by Azerbaijani athletes on stage as they did complicated tricks. Olive branch, held by Boy and Girl to symbolise victory, turned to a large olive garden with map of Azerbaijan in the background. 

Each participant of 'Baku 2019' Summer EYOF hopes the road they are on leads them to victory. Therefore we wish all of them, including our young athletes, all the joy of future victories. May Bread protecting our own houses, Fire bringing us to our goals, Book of Life with all the secrets and wisdom of our ancestors, peace and love flower Khari bulbul be with them at all times. Then Olive branch will top their heads as a sign of victory. 

Finally we could see all the flags of participant countries as XV Summer European Youth Olympic Festival Opening Ceremony came to an end. 

Information support by AZERTAG.