TARGET IN SIGHT

Azerbaijan 2014 | TOURISM & SPORTS | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Elvin Ismayilov, Vice-President of Gabala Shooting Club, on the success of the club, upcoming events, and the importance of shooting as an Azerbaijani sport.

Elvin Ismayilov
BIOGRAPHY
Elvin Ismayilov studied at the International Law Faculty of Azerbaijan National Aviation Academy, the National Academy of Sport, and the MBA Strayer University in Washington, DC. He is a member of the Azerbaijan National Shooting Team, having won various international tournaments in addition to representing Azerbaijan in European and World Championships. From 2013 to the present, he has served as Vice-president of Gabala Sport Club.

The Gabala Shooting Club has just turned one year old. Could you tell us about the reasons that led to the foundation of the club and its performance thus far?

The first stage of the Gabala Shooting Club (GSC) was inaugurated in February 2013. The inauguration was attended by President Ilham Aliyev, who commended the efforts made and suggested possible future developments for the second stage of the club. GSC is situated in the fast-growing city of Gabala, a historical center in Azerbaijan, and is part of the Gabala Sports Club, a world-class facility that prepares the national teams of Azerbaijan in shooting, boxing, taekwondo, karate, soccer, and judo. The reason behind building the GSC was to develop a multi-purpose and world-class shooting facility in Azerbaijan that can serve both as a recreational and entertainment center, and as a training place for the national shooting team and international professionals. In its day-to-day activity, GSC engages with various state institutions such as the Gabala Sports Club, the Azerbaijan Shooting Federation, and the International Shooting Sports Federation, among others. It prepares the national team and the reserve team of Azerbaijan, trains teenagers at its shooting school, organizes training camps and competitions, and cooperates with the media to publicize its events and raise awareness about shooting as a sport. The founding of the GSC came at a time when sports in general are experiencing a heyday in Azerbaijan thanks to the government's focus on promoting them on all levels. These days, Azerbaijani athletes are winning victories in international competitions, and new sports facilities are being built all over the country. Sports play an important role in the country's development strategy, as they contribute to the formation of healthy and ambitious young generations. The fact that President Ilham Aliyev is also the President of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan is telling of the special role of sports on his agenda. Nowadays, Azerbaijan, a country of nine million people, boasts 41 Olympic-level complexes in different regions. In the words of President Ilham Aliyev, “Azerbaijan is recognized worldwide as a sports-based culture. As the country is successfully hosting international sporting events and its athletes are winning victories abroad, we are sure of the potential of sports in Azerbaijan and its contribution to the development of future generations." Incidentally, our Club President, Tale Heydarov, supports the government's efforts to promote sports in Azerbaijan and to put Azerbaijan on the map as a country of excellence in sports.

What is the role of shooting in Azerbaijan's sports-based culture?

Shooting is one of the 80 fields of sport practiced on a professional level, and is one of the 40 sports that host international competitions in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani shooting has a great track record, seeing how we had a gold medalist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and a bronze medalist at the 2004 Olympics. Some of our athletes went on to train important teams abroad. While shooting is perceived as an elite sport, it is also a recreational one, and Gabala Shooting Club tries to combine the two types of shooting by providing facilities for both.

What do the club's facilities consist of?

The club provides ideal conditions for tourists, recreational shooters, and professionals. Thus, it is endowed with archery halls, five combined shooting ranges, nine sporting ranges, as well as ancillary facilities such as paintball, a training hall, a conference room, a press center, a VIP area, restaurants, a photo studio, a daycare center for children, and parking facilities. Furthermore, GSC enjoys a privileged position in Gabala, a fast developing tourist destination, in which cultural sights, hotels, amusement parks, entertainment options such as river rafting and the Tufandag ski resort can be accessed within a radius of a few kilometers. The Club also provides sporting and hunting equipment for rent or sale. Our store distributes famous sporting and hunting rifle brands, such as ARMI Perazzi, Castellani, Armeria Piovanelli, and La Porte, Beretta, and RC, among others. At the club's facilities there is a shooting school, which at the moment trains 45 teenagers, 19 of whom are girls, in rifle, pistol, and shotgun marksmanship. The goal of the school is to attract more teenagers to this sport, promote a healthy lifestyle from a young age, and open up opportunities for the younger generations, because the teenagers we train are potential members of the national reserve team. Their trainers are professional shooters who have participated in and won international competitions. All in all, the Gabala Shooting Club is among the top complexes of its kind in the world, a fact that was confirmed by the Vice-President and Secretary General of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) during his visit to the club. The club's equipment is imported from France, Switzerland and Italy, and its 52-hectare area offers optimal conditions for anyone seeking to practice shooting at any level.

“ One of the purposes of the complex is to host large-scale shooting events. "

What major events will GSC host in the coming years?

One of the purposes of the complex is to host large-scale shooting events. For the time being, its plans are to host part of the Heydar Aliyev International Grand Prix in August 2014 and World Cup Finals for rifle, pistol, and shotgun in October 2014. Furthermore, the club will also host a World Cup for rifle and pistol, and shotgun in 2015, in which more than 2,500 athletes are expected to take part and will give 34 athletes the chance to win a license to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Brazil in 2016. Hosting this event is of major importance for us, because it is the first time in Azerbaijan and Gabala history that we will be hosting international shooting competitions, and this will happen at our club.