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Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Updated: June 10, 12:46 PM ET
Azerbaijani women rewriting their athletic history

By Jane McManus

Ganja girls
A local girls basketball team attended this event for physical education teachers in Ganja, the second largest city in Azerbaijan. These girls are playing a sport normally reserved for boys in the country.

Azerbaijan is a country with a growing Olympic movement but a traditional culture that does not yet see sports as a valuable enterprise for girls. There are some who would like to see that change as the nation builds facilities capable of hosting world-class events in Baku, and regional Olympic centers in smaller towns to bring those sports to the population.

Some clearly are not ready for change, but I listened to many women discuss bringing opportunities to young girls in a way that respects culture.

Jane McManus
Jane McManus' first event in Azerbaijan was at this packed youth center in Ganja. The topic was blogging, and there were some kids there who are looking to start and promote their own blogs.

Jane McManus
Jane McManus met with the Women Journalist Association, where she learned a lot about the limited history of women in sports broadcasting and the desire to make it more acceptable.

Jane McManus
Men and women involved in the Olympic movement gathered to brainstorm how to create opportunities for girls.

Jane McManus
Tofig Bahramov Stadium is a 30,000 or so capacity soccer stadium that was used for a recent U-17 World Cup.

Jane McManus
The entrance hallway at Baku's Physical Education and Sports Academy is lined with former champions.

Jane McManus
This memorial to a legendary spy is particularly evocative.

Jane McManus
The region is known for honey, and the breakfast buffet at a local high-end hotel has an actual honeycomb to sample.

Jane McManus
Baku's Old Town is ancient but is still a residence for many in Azerbaijan's largest city. It is a contrast of old and new, restored and crumbling. There are many details that are striking -- like elaborate doors that lead to green courtyards.

Jane McManus
Most of Jane McManus' time was spent at events, but she did get an invitation to an Azeri wedding and it was a definite highlight!