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  • Thousands Take to the Streets for Arrival of the Flame in Ganja


    Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city was the destination for the Journey of the Flame today, Friday 15 May, as thousands of local residents came out to welcome the convoy and join in the spectacular festival of fire celebrations.

    Already accustomed to international attention due to its rich cultural heritage – Fikrat Amirov, composer of 1001 Nights ballet, Nizami Ganjavi, Romantic Poet of Persian literature, and Gambar Huseynli, composer of the famous ‘Cucalarim’ song all hail from here – Ganja is currently preparing itself for holding the honour of European Capital of Youth in 2016.

    It is a city with similar acclaim on the sporting field as Ganja is also the birthplace of former world and European freestyle wrestling champion, Aydin Ibrahimov while both Togrul Asgarov, Olympic Champion, wrestling and Abil Ibrahimov, Asian champion and freestyle wrestling world cup winner are students of the Ganja Olympic Stadium wrestling school.

    This sporting culture was evidenced in the warm welcome the first torchbearer Elchin Zeynalov, coach to current wrestling olympic champion received as he carried his torch along Nizami Street to start the relay. The flame was passed to Sabina Ibrahimova, Matanat Latifova, Ali Babajanov, Rufat Huseynov, Ilham Irani, Nizami Ahmadov, Azer Aslanov, and Olympian Movlud Miraliyev who completed the 3.7km route. The final torchbearer Togrul Asgarov carried the flame into the Heydar Alieyv park for the lighting ceremony.

    Local residents were later treated to a free evening event which included a spectacular fire show specially created for the Festivals of Fire celebrations which lasted fifteen minutes and kept its audience enthralled. Official mascots Jeyran and Nar mingled with spectators and watched as dove shaped balloons, symbols of peace were released into the sky.

    Torchbearer Elchin Zeynalov said: “I am very happy that this great event will be held in Azerbaijan. I never doubted that the journey of the flame would visit Ganja as Ganja is a city of ancient history and rich sporting traditions. Tonight’s Festival of Fire is the most unforgettable event our city has hosted so far but I believe that one day in the future we will be nominated to host the European Games. The speed of our country’s development is what makes me believe this. I am proud that two of my students Togrul Asgarov and Amil Gasimov will compete in the first ever European Games. I have no doubt that these Games will produce some great victories for our athletes and will be carved into the memories of all Azerbaijanis.”

    The Journey of the Flame will continue to Dashkesen and Samukh tomorrow Saturday (16 May), for smaller welcome ceremonies.

    For further information on the Journey of the Flame, please visit

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