Everything is in place for the opening of the 1st European Games which will be held in Baku from 12-28 June. More than six thouand athletes from fifty European countries will compete in twenty different sports.
This will be the biggest international event ever held in Azerbaijan, and a huge infrasturctural programme was carried out successfully and in a very short time.
The games have not been without their controversy. Critics of the Azerbaijan government say that the billions of dollars spent on preparing for the games could have been better used for other development projects. But the most serious criticism is related to a clampdown on human rights activists that Baku has carried out in the months ahead of the games. Major human rights organisations and international media outlets have criticised Azerbaijan's actions, and some claimed that the games should be boycotted. But officially European countries and the European Union have wished the games success, and no country has pulled out of the Games.
International teams from all over Europe have now started arriving in Azerbaijan for the opening ceremony on Friday. Among them was the team from Armenia made up of sixteen athletes. Political observers have welcomed the participation of the Armenian team in the games, and see this as a positive sign of confidence building between the two South Caucasus countries that remain locked in conflict over the future of Nagorno-Karabakh and other issues.
Georgian-Belarus relations improved after 2008, when unexpectedly Belarus did not follow Russia in recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia despite Kremlin pressure.
First Vice-President Aliyeva noted that Azerbaijan is located at the crossroads between the civilizations of the East and West, and is one of the few countries that are a member of both the Council of Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.