ASTANA – In early March, a delegation of the Association of Sports Press of Kazakhstan (ASPK) is scheduled to participate in the 79th Annual Congress of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS). The Astana Times sat down with President of ASPK Ilyas Omarov to gain his insight on the expectations of the Kazakh sports press for the forthcoming event.
As chair of the association, please tell us about its current activities.
Since the election – and in fact we are discussing electing a completely new team on the Executive Committee of the association – we have tried to intensify work both internally and externally.
One of the main directions of the ASPK’s activities is to help journalists in Kazakhstan’s regions. After all, sports journalism is not only about Astana and Almaty. Sport life is active throughout Kazakhstan. We try to analyse the state of sports journalism in the regions and assist them. A president of a regional branch has the right to participate in the work of the Executive Committee in an advisory capacity.
The association’s first branch opened in Karaganda. The example was followed by Kostanai and Aktau. Journalists from Uralsk and Pavlodar are expected to join soon. I hope that this list can be continued.
Last year, we opened ASPK branches in Almaty and in the capital. [The Astana branch] is headed by a young and promising journalist from the national daily Egemen Kazakhstan, Dastan Kenzhalin. The communications director of the Almaty Universiade, well-known TV presenter Ilya Urazakov, heads the Almaty branch.
This year, we held consultations with the Ministry of Culture and Sports, where we agreed to arrange joint seminars to exchange experiences with the spokespersons of the regional departments of the ministry and of the national associations on particular sports.
During this meeting the parties, to put it diplomatically, ‘discuss issues of mutual interest,’ or, more simply, learn a lot of interesting things for themselves. We are planning to continue this new practice.
Last year, with the assistance of KazSPORT, the first specialised sports channel in our country, we arranged two international seminars to introduce new technologies to the development of sports television journalism.
What about your international activities?
Last year an ASPK delegation took part in the annual AIPS Congress in Baku …
In autumn, representatives of our association attended the session of the Asian Sports Press Union (ASPU) in Incheon (South Korea). During the event, we gave a presentation on the Winter Universiade in Almaty in 2017. Another important result was the establishment, as proposed by Kazakhstan, of the ASPU committee for winter sports. Winter sports, in our opinion, are now extremely popular in Asia, even in those countries where snow is seen only on TV.
I believe our young nation has made a notable contribution to the development of winter sports. Take, for example, the 2011 Asian Winter Games, the upcoming Universiade and the inclusion of Almaty on the short list of bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Another important result is that we doubled the number of accreditations for Kazakh journalists to cover the Olympics. Since Kazakhstan gained its independence, we have had only five such accreditations, but at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 we will be able to send at least 11 journalists. Additionally, we have one more individual accreditation within the AIPS’s programme for young reporters. This is the outcome of our negotiations with the International Olympic Committee [IOC]. However, this is not the limit. According to the IOC, we are also on the waiting list to get more accreditations. A decision on that may be taken in April.
How many Kazakh journalists are members of the AIPS?
Today there are 54 Kazakh journalists in the AIPS, and this figure continues to grow. For a country like ours, I believe this to be a good number.
Membership in the AIPS, I believe, is our contribution to the geographic expansion of the international sports journalism movement.
As before, we call upon all sport journalists in Kazakhstan to join the AIPS, and are ready to assist in this matter.
How can one join the ASPK?
Membership in the association is open to all journalists covering the field of sport. To join, a journalist needs only to fill in an application form.
A personal question: how do you promote sport in your own family?
Indeed, there is a fresh example from my life. During his recent visit to Kazakhstan, I asked President of the International Olympic Committee Tomas Bach to participate in a tusau kesu ceremony that involved my son, Altair. This is an age-old Kazakh rite of passage in which a respected person cuts a thin rope tied around a one-year-old child’s feet, symbolising an open road for him or her to start walking. Mr. Bach kindly agreed to participate in the ceremony and handed my son, Altair Omarov, a souvenir in the shape of Olympic rings, wishing him a bright Olympic future. And now the president of the IOC is a kind of godfather to my son!
What do you expect from the upcoming congress in Paris?
As an acting diplomat who has attended United Nations General Assembly sessions in New York many times as a delegate, I can tell you that the annual AIPS Congress can be easily compared to that event. The AIPS Congress is a kind of UN General Assembly, but in the field of sports journalism.