Turkmenistan on right track for Ashgabat 2017
With state-of-the-art facilities, test event series success, and well-trained volunteers - plus the robust support of its people - Turkmenistan is ready for the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games and keen to write an exciting new chapter in the history of Asian sport.
Commencing on 17 September, the fifth edition of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games will see the very best athletes from Asia and Oceania compete in 21 sports over 12 days at the newly constructed Ashgabat Olympic Complex.
The impressive infrastructure of the Ashgabat Olympic Complex is formed around the Olympic Stadium, in a central area of Turkmenistan’s capital city. Encompassing 30 different facilities, this state-of-the-art multi-purpose sports complex includes 13 of 15 competition venues for the Games, including the Main Indoor Arena with a capacity of 15,000 spectators, where wrestling, belt wrestling and traditional wrestling will be hosted. The complex also includes the Athletes Village and assorted support and administrative buildings.
Taking centre stage in the Complex is the brand new Ashgabat Olympic Stadium. Featuring a modern design, the 45,000-seat stadium pays homage to the revered symbol of Turkmenistan – the Akhal-teke horse. This splendid creature adorns the roof of a structure that has already become a new icon of Ashgabat, and without a doubt, its image will leave a long lasting legacy for Turkmen sports.
The opening and closing ceremonies, produced by the world-renowned Milan-based production house Balich Worldwide Shows, will be held at the Ashgabat Olympic Stadium. BWS’s works are familiar to the world of top sporting events. Its Olympic experience includes the iconic ceremonies for Torino 2006, Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016, as well as the Olympic Flag Handovers of Salt Lake City 2002 and London 2012.
The world-class production company, and thousands of Turkmen performers, are working tirelessly so that Turkmenistan will truly impress the sporting world in September. A cast of more than 7,000 dancers and performers are required for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, and massive audition and selection procedures have been carried out since the beginning of May. Thousands of hopeful Turkmen sons and daughters have tried their best in an attempt to get selected as one of the performers at the dazzling ceremonies of Ashgabat 2017.
Seyran Gurbangulyev, a student at the State Institute of Culture, is confident about his chance of being selected for the opening ceremony, “I’ve been studying dance and music all my life. I play Dutar, Turkmenistan’s national musical instrument, professionally and have been studying professional dancing. Though I’ve presented several stage shows, performing at Ashgabat 2017 will be a completely new experience.”
Meanwhile, last month, the 100-Day Countdown for the Games was celebrated in grand style in the Turkmen city of Mary. Over 100 journalists from all across the globe attended the ceremony organised in conjunction with a multi-day International Media Forum held in Ashgabat and Mary.
The international media was treated to traditional dance performances and programmes that highlighted Turkmenistan’s deep historical roots. The Forum aimed to inform the media about the Games, and show them first-hand that Ashgabat’s world-class facilities and venues are ready to go.
Visiting media were invited for a tour of the Ashgabat Olympic Complex before being introduced to a sample of Turkmenistan’s history at the Turkmen National Carpet Museum and experiencing a tour of the capital city’s landmarks.
Finally, the group of horsemen who have been riding across four of the five provinces in Turkmenistan since May 2016 began the last leg of their journey to Ashgabat. The 500-day horse ride is part of a grand tour of Turkmenistan, which will culminate in Ashgabat to kick-off the Games in September.
Hosting any major sporting event wouldn't be possible without the tremendous contribution of its volunteers. The passion, inspiration, and friendship they bring to their roles have been truly spectacular, according to Dayanch Gulgeldiyev, Chairman of the 5th AIMAG Executive Committee, and it’s what makes the difference between a good Games and a great Games.
The First Stars programme is the biggest ever volunteer movement in Turkmenistan and aims to inspire the whole country. Volunteer registrations have been overwhelming since the programme was launched in February, with over 11,000 people already applying for Ashgabat 2017.
First Star volunteers have undergone three training sessions. All took place at the Martial Arts Arena in the Ashgabat Olympic Complex to set the scene for the Games and to allow volunteers to familiarise themselves with the venues.
Inspiring Ashgabat, a series of test events, was carried out at the Ashgabat Olympic Complex from April 22 to 30, 2017, and allowed volunteers to showcase the skills they had learnt in their training sessions over the past few months. Several international competitions were held; including the Senior Asian Weightlifting Championship, the Asian Kickboxing Confederation (WAKO ASIA) Championships 2016-17, and the Central Asian Short Course Swimming Championships.
Through the Inspiring Ashgabat Test Event Series, organisers had the opportunity to test the new facilities and all functional areas, to involve the citizens of Turkmenistan in the world of elite sport competition, to strengthen the sports community, and to spread awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
With state-of-the-art facilities, standout performances, and excellent spectator services, Turkmenistan proved its ability to organise large-scale international sport events. Competition-wise, all three events reached high competitive standards, with thrilling action and close fights contested in front of cheering capacity crowds.
As with all international sporting events, the fans were a major contributor to the vibrant atmosphere in all three venues: the Aquatics Centre, the Martial Arts Arena, and the Weightlifting Arena.
Another key factor in the success of Inspiring Ashgabat was the large presence and efficiency of the event volunteers. Dressed in green, Turkmenistan’s national colour, they offered warm welcomes and endless willingness to offer spectators a helping hand.
From early summer, volunteers will move into Games-time training. This intensive training schedule will again cover a variety of event-specific training with the ultimate objective of preparing the First Stars to deliver the best ever experience during the Games.
With a series of test events successfully completed, Turkmenistan, also known as the Pearl of Central Asia, has proved to be ready for what is set to be a world-class sporting stage come September.