KUALA LUMPUR – Kazakhstan’s top winter sports stars spoke here July 29 of Almaty commitment to provide the best experience for athletes for both the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
They told more than 50 reporters at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur how the combination of Almaty’s ideal winter climate and the short distances to venues would provide the perfect competition conditions for both Games periods.
“As an athlete, I can tell you that the close proximity of all venues to the Olympic Village is an amazing benefit, ” Sochi 2014 Bronze medalist Denis Ten said. “The short travel times make life easier for the athletes and allow them to better prepare for the biggest competitions of their lives. Almaty’s mountain and city venues are tried and tested and will provide an amazing experience for the Olympic and Paralympic athletes, spectators and everyone watching around the world.”
Ten, 22, is a hero of many in Kazakhstan and far beyond, admired not only for his sporting successes but also his unassuming demeanour and easy-going style. He used his personal story of how he first put on skates 17 years ago at a rink in a newly built shopping mall in Almaty, for lack of any other good ice rinks, to underline the city’s development since then.
He spoke about the existing facilities and those being built for the 2017 Winter Universiade. Talking about the enthusiasm for winter sports in the city, he joked that sometimes even he had trouble getting into the famous Medeu ice rink to skate for fun because it is so “crowded.”
“To quote Lao Tzu, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” Ten said. “We hope that with the Olympics [in Almaty in 2022] we will make this first step towards the Olympic dream.”
According to the Almaty 2022 bid committee, the city’s plans are for one of the most compact Games for many years with all venues located within a 30 kilometre radius of the Olympic Village. Seventy per cent of venues already exist with more being built for use at the Winter Universiade in two years.
At the press conference, the athletes talked about why Almaty 2022 is so important to them personally and the thousands of aspiring young Kazakh sportsmen and women who are keen to see the Games take place in their country.
“Winter sports is our passion in Almaty and our amazing and accessible venues will be a huge benefit to all athletes,” Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games participant Zhanyl Baltabayeva said. “Almaty has significant experience hosting events for para-athletes and our perfect winter climate will provide the perfect competition conditions during both Games periods.”
“Kazakhstan has come a long way since I started skating 12 years ago,” Kazakhstan national team ice dancer and Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympian Karina Uzurova added. “We’ve have built world-class venues and hosted major international competitions, including the 2011 Asian Winter Games. I had the honor of competing in the 2012 Youth Olympic Games, and I hope to one day compete in the Winter Olympics for Kazakhstan. I believe that the Winter Games will be a powerful catalyst for winter sports development for young athletes in our country and the region.”
“Almaty is fully committed to meet every IF, IPC and IOC requirement, and our primary focus is the athletes’ experience,” Almaty 2022 Vice Chairman Andrey Kryukov said in his turn. “Our vision, Keeping it Real, is based on our real winter weather, real venues and real hosting experience. We look forward to sharing this vision with IOC members here in Kuala Lumpur and convincing them that Almaty is the best choice for the Athletes and the Olympic Family in 2022.”
The press conference heard many questions about the strengths of the Almaty bid, the difficulties of presenting Almaty, which is not well-known globally, to the world audience and to the IOC members who are banned, under regulations introduced in early 2000s, from visiting bidding cities. Questions were also asked about the challenges of developing democracy and human rights in the country.
“Our proposal is very real,” Ten stressed. “Every time I come home I realise how comfortable it is to train. Travelling not only from rink to home, but also to ski resorts is easy. We have Medeu and a lot of other infrastructure.”
“We want to show how nature has prepared our city for the Olympics,” Kryukov added. “We don’t like to change the city to fit the Games, we want to bring the Games to the city.”
He also said, “Kazakhstan is a very young nation with ancient roots. As a young country we are always looking to improve our understanding and develop in terms of human rights. We are committed to integrating our country within the international community and two days ago our country signed a document with WTO on our membership in this respectable organisation. We always try to improve our country.”
Kruyukov also provided assurance that the athletes coming for the games “will be secure, absolutely, as there is no law that will limit their rights.” Asked about countering doping, “clean athletes are the top priority for Almaty 2022, and you know that,” Kryukov said.
“We have plenty of snow, plenty of water and plenty of mountains,” he went on, echoing one of the key messages of the campaign.
It was Ten, though, who summed up the excitement around Almaty’s bid.
“For three years now, I have organised an ice show with the participation of the best skaters in the world,” he said. “They come to Almaty, they get excited and they want to come back. And so do hundreds of spectators from Japan, South Korea, China and other countries.”
“This is a project dedicated to only one sport. But what if the Olympic Games come to our city?! Just thinking about it puts goose bumps on my skin!”