By Duncan Mackay

Mehriban AliyevaJanuary 18 - Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has appointed his wife as head of the Organising Committee for the first European Games, which are due to be held in Baku in 2015.


Mehriban Aliyeva, head of the influential Heydar Aliyev Foundation, will be in charge of the preparations for the new event which will be making its debut on the international calendar.

The First Lady will head a Committee of 30 people, which includes Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, Finance Minister Samir Sharifov and Interior Minister Ramil Usubov.

They will be joined by Azad Rahimov, the country's Youth and Sports Minister, who spearheaded Baku's successful bid to host the Games, which they were awarded at the European Olympic Committees annual meeting in Rome last month.

Aghajan Abiyev, the secretary general of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan (NOCA), is also on the Committee along with four of the country's Olympic champions, including wrestlers Toghrul Asgarov and Sharif Sharifov, who won gold medals in the 60 and 84 kilogram categories respectively at London 2012.

They will provide the athletes perspective along with Farid Mansurov, who claimed the wrestling 66kg gold medal at Athens 2004, and judoka Elnur Mammadli, who won the -73kg category at Beijing 2008.

Toghrul Asgarov at London 2012Wrestler Toghrul Asgarov, seen here celebrating his gold medal at London 2012, has been named as part of the Organising Committee for Baku 2015

The Games will be organised by the Azerbaijani Youth and Sports Ministry and the Baku City Executive Power jointly with the NOCA, according to the decree signed by the President. 

The Russian-educated Aliyeva, who is a doctor by profession, founded the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in 2004 and it is now one of the biggest builders of schools and hospitals in Azerbaijan, as well as being involved in several projects outside the country.

Aliyeva, who also sits on the ruling Executive Committee of the NOCA, which is headed by her husband, will oversee an event that is due to be attended by approximately 7,000 athletes from 49 countries competing in 15 Olympic sports and two non-Olympic sports.

Aliyeva also played a leading role in Baku's unsuccessful bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. 

She attended the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) in Moscow in April where Baku, along with the other bidders, Doha, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo, made a short presentation.

But Baku were cut from the final shortlist, along with Doha. 

Contact the writer of this story at duncan[email protected]


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