Eight representatives and two interpreters from Azerbaijan will arrive in Colorado Springs Sunday. The city is the third destination for the contingent, which is touring the U.S. “to engage in this country’s sporting culture and observe firsthand its capability to inspire social change,” according to a news release issued by the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council, a non-partisan, not-for-profit, educational organization.

According to the release, the Azerbaijanis “will spend two days immersed in the unique, local sporting culture, as part of a month-long U.S. tour for the project, ‘Sports Management and Sports as a Tool for Social Change in the U.S.: A Single-Country Project for Azerbaijan.’”

The Colorado Springs World Affairs Council is a site partner of The International Visitor Leadership Program, the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience the U.S. firsthand to cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts.

“The IVLP program has been around for a long time,” Colorado Springs World Affairs Council Executive Director Karen Burghart told the Business Journal. “It was founded in 1967. Alumni of this program includes leaders from all industries, even former heads of state including Indira Gandhi, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher. Also among the well-known alumni are Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who participated in 1987, and former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in 1999.

“Locally, the scope and activities of the ILVP program have been limited, as CSWAC was an all-volunteer organization until about 18 months ago,” Burghart continued. “The Global Ties U.S. grant enables us to begin to rebuild this program and increase the number of international visitors again. So if we can be a part of the new growth of Colorado Springs, we would be thrilled about that.”

During their visit to the Pikes Peak region, the Azerbaijanis will:

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  • Visit U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Headquarters;
  • Meet with U.S. Anti-Doping Association executives;
  • Visit and receive an overview of the Sports Management Program offered by UCCS;
  • Meet with Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials;
  • Visit City Rock indoor climbing gym as a for-profit sports experience; and
  • Tour the Garden of the Gods park.

“We are delighted to host our guests from Azerbaijan and to facilitate their introduction to and immersion in our sports culture,” Burghart said in the release. “Not only do these meetings reflect the participants’ professional interests, but they also support the foreign policy goals of the United States, and we are pleased to be able to bring more international attention and collaboration to Colorado Springs.”


The Department of State has outlined the following specific objectives for the project:

  • Gain exposure to federal laws in place to encourage participation of all citizens in sports and to ensure access for underrepresented populations;
  • Examine best practices for public/private partnerships — including government, community organizations/NGOs, and the business sector — in developing local sports leagues and sports promotion in general;
  • Explore the role of sports education programs and academic sports programs in the sports industry (examining their curriculum/familiarization with academic books in sports/sports journals);
  • Examine the role of sports media/journalism in covering and promoting events;
  • Observe community sports programs aimed at empowering women and girls as well as removing the barriers and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities to engage in sports; and
  • Examine fundraising strategies for community sports initiatives.

Other cities on their tour include Washington, D.C., Denver, Cleveland, Charlotte, N.C., and Boston.