In exactly one year’s time, January 29, 2017, Kazakhstan will be welcoming some of the finest young athletes from around the world. This will, of course, be for the Winter Universiade, which Almaty has the honour and responsibility for hosting.
Student athletes from all over the world between the ages of 17 and 28 will be competing for some of the most prestigious prizes in world sport. For those unfamiliar with the Universiade movement, it is one of the world’s largest and longest running sporting movements. The idea is simple – to bring together the world’s finest student athletes for competitive sports events to be held within the context of fair play and friendly rivalry.
The Universiade can trace its roots back to the 1891 Universal Peace Congress in Rome where it was agreed that a series of student conferences should be held globally, to include sport. Through several iterations and despite the problems brought by two world wars, the first Winter Universiade took place in 1960 in Chamonix, France.
Only held every two years, the Winter Universiade has been the leading event in alpine sports ever since. It is with this sense of history that Kazakhstan will host the 2017 games with pride.
The Universiade will be a remarkable opportunity for students to demonstrate their sporting prowess but also a wonderful opportunity for Kazakhstan to welcome the world and demonstrate our excellent facilities, hospitality and give an incredibly warm Almaty welcome.
It is also with an enormous sense of opportunity that Kazakhstan is planning and preparing for the event. Economic times are of course hard all around the world, with few immune from the downward pressures on commodities and stock markets. However, this is not the time to be turning down the ability to shirk our responsibilities to host events of global significance.
It is with a sense of duty to the international community that we plan and prepare for the Universiade. As with any well-run event, there is no blank cheque for developing our facilities. In fact, much of the investment that was made for the 2011 Asian Games are being repurposed for 2017’s events, thus further demonstrating how previous planning and expenditures still benefit us all today.
The Universiade will be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to the world that we can successfully host a global sporting event. Almaty narrowly missed out on the opportunity to be the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which of course was a disappointment to Kazakhstan. A successful Universiade would be an excellent launch pad for a future Olympic bid.
This forward thinking draws parallels with the Nurly Zhol investment programme, which has meant that careful financial management during more stable years of commodity prices has allowed us to commit around $40 billion in infrastructure projects up to 2020. These projects will allow Kazakhs to benefit for generations to come and the same will be the case for the Universiade.
It’s not just the financial investment that will be of benefit to our nation. Thousands of participants and fans will be able to take in the rich culture, hospitality and cuisine that are on offer in Almaty and across the country. Today’s student athletes will become tomorrow’s academic, business and political leaders. This mutual understanding can only become of benefit as it becomes ever more vital to look globally. We are proud of reaching out to partners near and far. As far as we are concerned there is no “Great Game,” only the “Great Gain.”