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Astana, December 2: The International University Sports Federation (FISU) Executive Committee awarded the 2017 Winter Universiade to Almaty on November 29. The city remained the only bidding candidate for the 2017 Winter Universiade with Trentino withdrawing last week due to the economic situation in Italy.

The Almaty City delegation led by Almaty Mayor Akhmetzhan Yessimov presented its bid to host the Winter University Games. The delegation also included Kairat Zakiriyanov, chairman of the Student Sports Federation of Kazakhstan, Vladimir Smirnov, a legendary cross-country skier and the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic champion in 50 kilometers, senior officials of the ministry of tourism and sports, and the Almaty City Bidding Committee.

            Addressing the FISU Executive Committee, Yessimov said the city authorities would do everything to hold the Universiade at the highest possible level. He noted the idea of participating in the race to host the Winter Universiade was supported by President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan.

            “Kazakhstan is situated in the heart of Eurasia. We represent the part of the world that has never hosted a Universiade before. We are eager to promote with you the philosophy and the humanistic values of the FISU in the eastern part of the continent – the vast territory of ancient land in Central Asia,” Yessimov said. He added that Almaty is the biggest city in Kazakhstan, its economic, cultural and educational centre, and the cradle of Kazakhstan’s independence.

“This year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. We want to turn Almaty into a new centre for tourism and winter sports. The city has a developed sports infrastructure, which is the heritage of the Winter Asian Games of 2011. We will construct new facilities – the new Ice Palace and an athlete village for more than 20,000 participating students – needed for the Universiade,” the city mayor said.

According to Yessimov, the city authorities will provide all the necessary conditions for participants of the Winter Student Games, from simplifying visa procedures to ensuring security at the highest level.

The FISU Executive Committee was confident in granting Almaty the 28th Winter Universiade which was a strong bidding candidate and former co-host of the 2011 Asian Winter Games.

Following the announcement of the host city, Claude-Louis Gallien, FISU President, said Almaty was a perfect place to hold the Universiade. “I am sure the Universiade in Almaty will be very well organized, and I will provide my full support to this. Your country now has to think about what’s going to happen after the Universiade.”

He also said Almaty “has every opportunity to present a bid to host the Winter Olympic Games”.

Today when the climate change impacts holidays of so many, more and more people now think about going to Almaty for their winter holidays. “Perhaps, Almaty could become an alternative to the Alpine mountains,” the FISU President added.

He also noted that he had supported Almaty as a candidate to host the Universiade, for the city had the necessary sports facilities and infrastructure for conducting sports events of such scale. On a visit to Kazakhstan, he said he was surprised by the level of development of the city’s sports infrastructure. “But a Universiade is not just an event for a couple of weeks. Great preparatory work has to be done before the Games. And you can reap the fruits of the Universiade for many years after it,” Gallien said.

Earlier in November, the FISU Evaluation Committee visited Almaty’s sports facilities, including the skiing and biathlon complex, the Baluan Sholak Sports and Culture Palace, the Medeo Alpine ice arena, the Shimbulak ski resort, and the International ski-jump complex. At the final briefing, members of the Evaluation Committee praised the sports facilities visited. They noted the importance of such venues not only for the development of professional sports but also of mass sports.

Kairat Zakiriyanov, head of the Kazakh Academy of Sports and Tourism, said: “In our presentation we emphasised our political and economic stability, our experience of hosting the 2011 Winter Asian Games, and the fact that Central Asia would be interesting for the Federation in terms of expanding the geography of the Universiade. I think Almaty’s victory in this contest is one of the most glorious pages in the history of an independent Kazakhstan.”

            Zakiriyanov also noted that over the twenty years of independence Kazakhstan’s students have won twenty gold medals at different Universiades. “It’s a great success, and it’s higher than the results of our athletes at the Olympics,” Zakiriyanov said.

Vladimir Smirnov, an Olympic champion and a four-time world champion in cross-country skiing, said this victory was important for the country celebrating the 20th anniversary of its independence. “This outcome was extremely important, we have been preparing for it, waiting for it. The Asiade left its positive trace on us, so the jury had no doubt when choosing the host,” Kazakhstan’s famous skier said.

The students of the Kazakh National University (KazNAU) welcomed the news about Almaty officially becoming the host of the 28th Winter Universiade. “We are very proud, and we surely support the FISU decision. It’s a real celebration to us!” Olzhas Zholdasov, chairman of the KazNAU Student Union, said.

Asem Bolysbayeva, head of the KazNAU Economics and Law Department, expressed an opinion that KazNAU students’ volunteering experience during the Winter Asiade had shown they would be ready to take part in the preparation for the Universiade. “I am confident our students will be among participants and winners of the Student Games,” Bolysbayeva said.

The Universiade, a combination of the words “University” and “Olympiad”, is an international multi-sports event, organized for university athletes by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The federation includes 153 member associations from 5 continental regions, and is the only international federation with more than 50 sports on its competition programme. The Universiade is the second largest international multi-sports event after the Olympic Games, usually attracting athletes from more than 130 countries.

            The 25th Winter Universiade was held in Erzurum, Turkey in January 2011. The next Winter Games are to be held in 2013 in Maribor, Slovenia, and the Summer Games – in Kazan, Russia, the same year. In 2015, the summer contest will be held in Gwangju, South Korea, and the winter games in Granada, Spain. The Summer Universiade of 2017 will take place in Taipei, Taiwan.


Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Japan©2011