Ashgabat 2017 puts the finishing touches as countdown enters final 50 days
Turkmenistan’s passion for sports and healthy living was showcased in stunning fashion when thousands of people took part in a mass participation event to mark 50 days to go until the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games take place from 17–27 September.
The country took to pedal power, with vehicles banned from the roads, for a bike-only day to allow a tremendous display of support for a country putting the finishing touches before its capital city of Ashgabat takes the spotlight.
And while the Games share many traits with other major sporting events, the presence of some events appealing to a more discerning audience sets the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games apart.
With the aim to promote cultural awareness, equality, respect and fair play, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) have established a rich and diverse programme for the Games, which include a combination of 21 traditional Olympic, non-Olympic and Asian sports.
The spectators of Ashgabat 2017, therefore, can look forward to watching some unique and interesting competitions next month.
One of the most highly anticipated sports is 3x3 Basketball which returns to the Games programme after missing out four years ago. The fast and furious TV-friendly sport is played on a half court with a single hoop over just 10 minutes. The first team to reach 21 points or the side with the most points at the end of the allotted time wins.
Thanks to its simplicity, both in terms of rules and required facilities, 3x3 Basketball is widely considered to be the leading urban team sport and it is played throughout the world in street courts, parks, squares, and basketball courts. The small-sided version of Basketball is enjoying a global popularity boom and is included in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Kurash is another sport that will capture the attention of the public come September. The name comes from the Uzbek verb ‘to wrestle’ and it is an upper-body-only Martial Art invented by the Uzbeks which can be traced back 3,500 years. It is also the national sport of Turkmenistan so expect some fervent home support.
The Kurash uniform includes wide white trousers and a loose shirt. An essential part of the uniform is a fabric belt used to hold an opponent. The goal is to throw an opponent off their feet. The contestants may wrestle only when on their feet, and are only allowed to throw or trip the opponent. Grappling below the waist, hitting or kicking, ground wrestling and arm locks or choking techniques are all forbidden, making Kurash a simple, spectacular, dynamic and safe sport.
Another popular fan-friendly sport at Ashgabat 2017 is Futsal with thousands of spectators expected to flock to Ashgabat’s Multifunctional Sport Venue for the five-a-side indoor football contest.
Futsal means football in a hall and was created as an alternative to football during the cold and wet winter months. The first World Championship of Futsal was held in Brazil in 1982 and it has featured at every Asian Indoor Games since 2005, consistently ranking among the top three most popular sports.
It is played between two teams of five players each and, like normal football, one of the players is the goalkeeper. Unlimited substitutions are permitted but, unlike other forms of indoor football, the game is played on a hard court surface using a smaller ball. The surface, ball and rules create an emphasis on improvisation, creativity, and technique as well as ball control and passing in small spaces.
Many of the top football clubs in the world regularly have their youth players playing Futsal and the likes of Pele, Maradona, Messi, Kaka, Xavi and Ronaldo are just a few of the big names who refined their skills in the playing hall.
Like Futsal, DanceSport has also been on the Asian Indoor Games programme since 2005. Previously known as competitive ballroom dancing, this glamorous and exciting physical activity has been renamed to suit its modern image as a demanding sport.
Five Latin and five Standard dances are at the origins of DanceSport. Each of these dances is performed to the prescribed music and tempo by dancing partners or couples. While all athletes are challenged to demonstrate their perfect techniques, athletic ability must combine with aesthetics to produce a truly captivating performance on the parquet.
Physical conditioning, hard work, stern discipline, mental training as well as imagination are the prerequisites for athletes to achieve excellence in DanceSport.
Turkmenistan will field 10 of the country’s best dancers at the Games. Among them, 29-year-old Alexander Sisekin is the most experienced. He has taken part in several international competitions, and, in 2014, won silver at the World Dance Olympiad in Moscow.
Last year, he paired with 22-year-old Valeria Nepomnyaschaya to take Duet gold in the qualification event for Ashgabat 2017. The pair will be competing in Latin dances next month.
These are just some of the sports that will bring incredible diversity to Ashgabat 2017 and as the days continue to be ticked off to the 17 September Opening Ceremony, the anticipation will only intensify as we countdown to one of the greatest shows on earth.