ASTANA – In autumn 2013, Ilyas Omarov, a diplomat with more than 20 years of experience became a chair of the Sports Press Association of Kazakhstan (SPAK). For nearly nine years he worked as a press secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan. Nesip Zhunusbayev, the former SPAK chair, a renowned journalist became its honorary president.
Omarov spoke to The Astana Times about current activities and objectives of the association.
What are the main objectives of SPAK?
My colleagues at SPAK supported me when I offered to work under the motto called “sports diplomacy.” There is such a concept as a win-win partnership in diplomacy. The international initiatives of Kazakhstan are known as the ones that are aimed at ensuring benefits for everyone.
So, our association is open for cooperation with anyone who is interested in the development of the Kazakhstan sports press, as we have similar goals.
What are the main directions of the SPAK activity for the future?
The main direction is assistance to journalists. After all, sports journalism is not only about Astana and Almaty. Sport life flourishes across Kazakhstan. Currently, we analyse the state of sports journalism in the regions, assist in the opening of regional branches. Our first branch was established in Karaganda, Kostanai and Aktau followed this example, Uralsk and Pavlodar are in the pipeline. I hope this list can be continued. In the future, we plan to hold a national seminar of the sports press in Kazakhstan.
Along with this, it is necessary to promote the image of Kazakhstan in the international arena. For this purpose it is necessary to actively participate in the activities conducted under the auspices of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS). In particular, it is important to second journalists to AIPS seminars, introduce our country representatives in AIPS committees in various sports. But for this purpose it is necessary to be a member of this international organisation.
We offer all sports journalists in Kazakhstan to join the AIPS and we are ready to assist in this matter. Today, more than 40 Kazakhstan journalists are members of AIPS. I believe this figure will grow soon. It is also necessary, jointly with the National Olympic Committee of Kazakhstan and the Kazakhstan Agency of Sport and Physical Education, to seek to increase the number of journalists’ accreditations granted by the International Olympic Committee for the coverage of the Olympic Games.
What can you say about the new composition of the SPAK executive committee?
The composition of the executive committee includes true professionals who can and want to work. There is a common misconception that membership in the executive committee of such organisations is just a honorary position. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when many of the persons elected to the executive committee stated almost as an ultimatum that they consider their activities within the SPAK very seriously and are not going to just sit idle. “Otherwise, why do we need such a membership in the executive committee?” they reasonably noted.
I’d add that the executive committee is primarily a working body, which should facilitate the work of “literary fraternity” in the field of sports.
What is the procedure of joining SPAK?
Any journalist in the field of sports can become a SPAK member. All is needed is only to express a wish and fill out a questionnaire.
When will the next SPAK meeting take place, and what issues will be considered there?
According to the charter, the SPAK meeting shall be held at least once a year. In our case, the deadline is this autumn. The main issue will be the report on the activities for the past period and suggestions for further development of the activity. The SPAK executive committee is to address the current issues. If there is an issue requiring convening of an extraordinary meeting, it will be done as needed.
What can you say about the work of the sports press at the Sochi Olympics?
Kazakhstan Agency for Physical Culture and Sports did a very effective job convincing the government to allocate funds for a trip of 40 sports journalists to Sochi. That was a timely decision because we had only four accreditations from the International Olympic Committee for the journalists covering the upcoming Winter Olympics. That is too little for our country. If before it was due to our modest results at the Olympics, after the success in London, we have the right to expand the presence of our journalists.
For example, I met my colleagues from Ukraine and Slovakia. The Ukrainians won five medals at the Winter Olympics and got about 50 accreditations, exclusive TV reporters. Slovakia got four medals and they got 15 accreditations for journalists and four for photographers, plus separate accreditations for TV and radio reporters. We have six medals and got only four accreditations. I believe that the Kazakhstan sports fans do not deserve such a treatment. Our association intends to seek ways to change this situation. Naturally, this should be done in conjunction with the National Olympic Committee of Kazakhstan.
And do you still work at the Foreign Ministry?
My involvement with SPAK is a volunteer activity, so, yes, I continue to work at the Foreign Ministry.