The competition will be tough and the stakes high. The official draw, which took place today in the heart of the capital, has already made it possible to get a clearer idea of the forces involved and the least we can say is that the spectacle will be magnetic.
During the draw, Mr Vlad Marinescu, IJF Director General, said, "It is a great honour to be able to share with you some words before the draw of this grand slam in Baku, Azerbaijan. We are looking towards to the Olympic qualification. Here we have 61 countries and 446 athletes who are working their way towards qualifying their spots for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.
Judo is a sport based on values and we will see this weekend a demonstration of these values of unity, friendship and peace, values which unite us as a judo family.
Please enjoy the show online, on JudoTV. We wish of course all the athletes the best of luck and on behalf of our President, Mr Marius Vizer, our executive board, we'd like to thank all the sponsors, the Ministry of Youth and Sport, the national federation and the media."
The Head of the Sport Department of the Ministry of Youth Sports of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr Elnur Mammadov, declared, "Dear representatives of the judo family, dear guests, we are very happy to welcome you all to Baku. This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of our national Leader Heydar Aliyev, who played an important role in the development of sport in Azerbaijan, including judo. We are hosting this tournament in recognition of his legacy.
Judo holds a special place in Azerbaijan because judo is popular among the people throughout the country. The successes of our athletes at the international level just confirm this statement. With this opportunity, I would like the thank the Azerbaijan Judo Federation for their great preparation and all the effort dedicated to the development of judo in the country.
Competition begin tomorrow and I am sure that the spectators will enjoy it. The tournament promises to be very interesting. On behalf of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, I wish the best of luck to all the athletes."
To conclude the introduction of the draw was Mr Rashad Rasullu, Secretary General of the Azerbaijan Judo Federation, "We are delighted to host this Baku Grand Slam once again. As the Azerbaijan Judo Federation, we are committed to hosting this tournament at the highest level, characterised by respect and fair play. I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the International Judo Federation, to all our colleagues from the IJF, the Minister of Youth and Sports and also our sponsors. Their exceptional contribution and support make this tournament possible.
With the Paris Olympics on the horizon, the grand slam has a special significance for the athletes. I extend my best wishes to them for good health and great success on their Olympic Journey."
Just before the start of the draw procedure led by Mr Vladimir Barta, IJF Head Sport Director, the public was reminded that the event will as usual follow the IJF Sport and Organisation Rules, the anti-doping rules and the IJF Sustainability Policy, to be safe, successful and sustainable. During the first day of competition, everyone will be able to visit the Clean Judo - Clean Sport Anti-doping Booth, in collaboration with the Azerbaijan National Anti-doping Agency. The online viewers can visit the IJF anti-doping partner (https://ita.sport/athlete-hub/) and answer the WADA Play-True quiz (https://quiz.wada-ama.org/).
Due to the number of participants, the competition, which is held in the National Gymnastics Arena, will begin on day 1 at 8:30, while on day 2 and 3, it will begin at 9:30. Everyday the final block will start, with all the medal contests, at 16:00. Preliminaries will be run on three tatami, the final block being displayed and broadcast on one tatami.
The action can be followed live on https://judotv.com/ and on the IJF website, while throughout the day content and images will be published on all social media platforms.
The Baku Grand Slam has become a tradition. This year, more than ever, it is an event not to be missed. The best are here, they are looking for points as they want to confirm an already good ranking or to get a better position before we meet again in Abu Dhabi and Tokyo later this year. Nobody knows what is going to happen but what we can guarantee is that the show will be incredible.