The Baku 2015 European Games have ended with a spectacular Closing Ceremony capturing Azerbaijan’s rich tapestry of different colours, peoples, traditions and influences.
The Closing Ceremony got underway with a fanfare drawing attention to the Presidential Box and welcoming President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, First Lady of Azerbaijan, Chair of the Baku 2015 European Games Organising Committee Mehriban Aliyeva, President of the European Olympic Committees Patrick Hickey., President of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev, Chairman of the Parliament of Liechtenstein Albert Frick, Chairman of Russian State Duma Sergey Naryshkin, as well as representatives of the European Olympic Committee, International Olympic Committee, and members of the European Olympic family.
Azerbaijan is a rich tapestry of different colours, peoples, traditions and influences. Like threads of a carpet each are distinct but, united by their diversity, they create a beautiful pattern.
On the stadium screens, a carpet weaver's threads came to life and journey through the countryside, across the ancient landscape to the city of Baku. Distinctive carpets by renowned local artist, Faig Ahmed, transformed into numbers – from 10 to zero – reflecting the vitality of modern Azerbaijan.
As the countdown hit zero, light shone on two singers on the Main buta stage. They were joined by a chorus to sing a new, symphonic arrangement of the national anthem.
Attention was drawn to the Protocol stage where the flag of Azerbaijan is carried by eight and raised by three servicemen of the National Guard of the Special State Protection Service.
Called Transformation, this part of the ceremony applauded the rich traditions of Azerbaijani music, dance and architecture, juxtaposed with the energy and power of their modern equivalents.
Traditional musicians called out a melody that's answered by a group of their contemporary counterparts.
As the scene built, traditional and modern dancers responded to each others' rhythms and energy.
Sixteen dancers spun around the Main buta stage – their dresses flaring out to create beautiful patterns.
The rhythm of the music changed as three giant sculptures began to spin as well. Each of their skirts was extended and held by 24 performers.
As the music became a rock fusion, the traditional skirts were transformed into modern, brightly coloured patterns. Then, the modern dress was pulled away to reveal the 128 performers who have been manoeuvring each sculpture.
All 504 dancers spun and created mosaic patterns across the stage.
Finally, the walls of the 'Maiden Tower' peeled away to reveal the architecturally spectacular 'Flame Towers', reminding that our present is born from our past.
A short film on the stadium screens paid tribute to the 12,500 Flamekeeper volunteers whose energy, enthusiasm and remarkable dedication have contributed to the success of Baku 2015.
The film was followed by a 50-strong children's choir singing the traditional folk tune, 'Cal Oyna'. It's a celebratory song for the nearly 6,000 athletes from 50 nations whose exceptional sportsmanship, courage and commitment have captured our hearts and minds over the past 17 days.
The placard bearers and athlete flag bearers entered in two lines – headed by Greece (birthplace of the Olympics) and Azerbaijan (hosts) – and meet in front of the Main buta stage. Children from the choir give water lilies – a symbol of peace and unity – to the placard bearers, before singing a reprise of 'Cal Oyna'.
First Lady of Azerbaijan Chair of the Baku 2015 European Games Organising Committee Mehriban Aliyeva was invited to the stage to deliver a speech. Behind her on the Protocol stage are 669 Flamekeepers – the volunteers who've been so vital to the success of the Games.
Speech by First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva:
Your Excellency, Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
President of the European Olympic Committees, Patrick Hickey.
European Games athletes.
Ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to the Closing Ceremony of the first European Games.
I warmly congratulate you on the successful completion of the first European Games!
I’d like to express my deep gratitude to the Azerbaijani national team, European athletes and numerous guests for their friendliness, hospitality and support during the Games.
I hope there are many more victories for independent Azerbaijan, and wish happiness and prosperity for Azerbaijani people.
The first European Games have come to an end. The last 17 days were remarkable and unforgettable in the history of Azerbaijan.
We are proud that the first European Games were held in our country.
We are proud that within only two and a half years Azerbaijan has turned its commitment into a reality, and delivered a sporting event of the highest standard.
Over the last 17 days we witnessed unity, solidarity and friendship between European nations.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to the people of Azerbaijan, and the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, for their great support of the Games and the athletes.
The entire nation is proud of our athletes. They have won a total of 56 medals – including 21 gold medals – and finished second in the overall medals table. Athletes of Azerbaijan, your success makes you a great example to the next generation.
I would like to thank all the athletes who participated in these Games.
Thank you for making these first European Games such an unforgettable festival of sport.
You treated us to amazing performances of passion, courage and grace. These Games have been your Games, and your achievements have been truly inspirational.
Congratulations to you all.
I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to the European Olympic Committees and their President, Mr Patrick Hickey, whose vision and determination turned the idea of a European Games into a reality.
I would also like to thank Chair of the Coordination Commission, Spyros Capralos, for his invaluable guidance during our preparations.
Thank you to the members of the Games Organising Committee, and all our international partners, for your commitment and dedication.
Thank you to the many loyal fans who travelled from across Europe to support their teams. You celebrated victories. You offered comfort in defeat. You brought passion, excitement and a friendly atmosphere to the Games.
I would like to thank our wonderful volunteers. We could not have staged this event without you. Your enthusiasm and professionalism has helped us to bring the spirit of Baku 2015 to life. A country which has such a talented youth has a great future.
A big thank you also to our international volunteers. You travelled to Azerbaijan from across Europe to help us organise this historic event and to be a part of this festival of sport and friendship. We will miss you and hope you will come back.
Azerbaijan opened its arms and its heart to Europe. We welcomed old friends and made new ones.
This evening we say goodbye to you all. But we hope to see you back in Azerbaijan for future events.
Next year, Baku will host the forty-second Chess Olympiad and the Formula One European Grand Prix. In 2017, we will welcome the Fourth Islamic Solidarity Games. And in 2020, European Championship football matches will be played in our city.
Tonight, we will extinguish the cauldron and bring the first European Games to a close.
As the curtain falls on this celebration of sport and friendship, I’m overwhelmed by an enormous sense of pride in our country and our people.
The past 17 days will live forever in our hearts. It will be an unforgettable moment in our history that passes down through the generations.
Thank you athletes!
Thank you friends!
Thank you Azerbaijan!
X X X
President of the European Olympic Committees Patrick Hickey then delivered a speech.
Speech by Patrick Hickey:
Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev;Chair of Baku 2015, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Athletes of Europe;
And everyone who has shared in this superb 17-day celebration of sport.
The spark which ignited the European Games has come from the Land of Fire.
Azerbaijan: you have been warm and gracious hosts.
Under the leadership of President Aliyev and First Lady Aliyeva, the Baku 2015 European Games Operations Committee delivered arenas fit for the best sportsmen and sportswomen in Europe.
A gold-medal standard of operational excellence. And a team of new young heroes: your fantastic volunteers. All that in the space of 30 months.
The sports facilities you have created here will serve your athletes, your communities and your young people for years to come.
Thank you all for the commitment you have shown to this great project.
Thank you to the National Olympic Committees. You saw what these Games could mean for European sport. And you prepared your teams to hit peak performance on the field of play.
Thank you to the International and European Federations. You came to these Games with your minds open to innovation. And together we showed that these modern-day multi-sports events can fit the needs and necessities of any city.
And to the athletes of Europe: thank you. You have represented your countries – and your continent – with honour and distinction.
A great Games is defined by great sport. Great sport is what you gave us.
I hope these Games stay with you. Your satisfaction in victory; your lessons in defeat. Now that you have lived, trained and competed with Europe’s best you are ready to face the world at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Europe is a continent of contrasts and great rivalries. Of diversity, and history and competition. But here, at the European Games, we came together under a common flag, united by a common belief: that sport – and the pursuit of the Olympic ideal – elevates us to a place where what we share means more than what sets us apart. A belief that every four years, for two glorious weeks, we 50 nations of Europe can become one.
These were the Games on which to build all future European Games. The foundations of an event that will endure and inspire.
To the European Olympic family and to our friends around the world, I say this, with complete certainty: the future is bright for Azerbaijan. The future is bright for the European Games. And the future is bright for the magnificent athletes of Europe.
So now, with gratitude, with pride, and with great optimism, I declare the Baku 2015 inaugural European Games closed.
Thank you Baku!
Thank you Azerbaijan!
X X X
There then followed a short film about Baku, highlighting the city's attractions and forthcoming major events, such as the 2016 Formula One European Grand Prix, the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games, and UEFA Euro 2020 football matches.
A male dancer discovered a light of energy on the stage. As it traveled up through him, his body reacted and he transferred the light to a female dancer. Then to many more. Their urban and athletic movements built into a high-energy hip-hop dance.
More than 500 performers flooded the stage, carrying LED hexagons above their heads. As they moved, the hexagons created patterns – first a graphic equalizer, then a lotus flower and other stunning images.
As the music became more ethereal, attention was drawn high above the stage. Performers were creating acrobatic moves inside six cyr wheels that have hexagon-shaped lighting bars. As they descended, they were joined by three more cyr wheels performing on the ground.
Seventy-five performers moved across the stage with brightly coloured flags. Meanwhile, the hexagons rhythmically moved to create an image that incorporates the three buta stages… it was the pomegranate tree graphic of the Baku 2015 European Games.
The evening payed tribute to the nearly 6,000 athletes from 50 nations whose exceptional endeavours and commitment have captured hearts and minds.
Highlights of the past 17 days were shown on the stadium screens.
The first-ever European Games have been a historic event for Azerbaijan and the European sporting community. For the athletes, officials, volunteers and spectators, it's been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Under the light of the Cauldron, Elnur Mikailov played the kamanche – a haunting and yearning sound embodying Azerbaijani mugham music.
From the north buta stage, Lamiya Karimova beckoned him with an enchanting melody.
We saw the Ateshgah fire temple rise from the Main stage. Standing on top, a sand painter was drawing 'the tree of life' from the simurg legend. Soon it discovered that what she draws magically comes to life on stage.
Seventy-six dancers created dynamic choreography with sand. As the sand painter drew a brewing storm, dancers representing wind and water appear.
Next, she drew birds, and 50 appeared, representing the 50 nations of the Games. The birds flocked together and, as in the legend, transformed into a giant simurg.
As the music became more dramatic, the sand painter drew images of fire, conjuring performers with fire wings who run in and scatter the bird performers.
Fire dancers performed athletically as the music intensified, and fire effects engulfed the stadium. As the dance reached a fever pitch, the simurg ignited in spectacular fashion and started to burn brightly in the centre of the stadium.
The ceremony then featured performance by foreign musical bands and singers.
For the athletes who trained exhaustively to compete in Baku, the Games were over and it was time to celebrate.
As spectacular fireworks shot across the Baku sky, the first-ever European Games came to a close.