Olympics: Kazakh skating star inspired by hometown’s 2022 bid
Kazakhstan's Olympic bronze medal-winning figure skating star Denis Ten on Thursday backed the bid by his home city Almaty to host the Winter Games in 2022, saying it could transform the entire region.
Ten, who is being feted as a national hero at home after his bronze in the men’s individual event, said he had been inspired to take up the sport by the facilities in Almaty, the city of his birth.
The organisers of the bid believe it has a good chance to beat proposals from four other cities as Almaty already has much of the necessary sporting infrastructure in place.
One of the city’s trump cards is the high-altitude Medeu ice rink which in the 1970s became the leading place in the world for setting of speed skating records.
Ten recalled it was the Medeu facility that started him on his road to a bronze medal at Sochi 2014.
“I started my career in Almaty. My mother took me to Medeu and it was the first time I saw people figure skating. It was then I decided to become a figure skater.”
Praising Russia’s project to host the Games in Sochi, he said an entire region “can be changed and transformed with the help of a sporting event”.
“I believe the 2022 Olympics will be the most unforgettable event for a whole generation in my country.”
The city of 1.5 million in the cusp of the Tien Shan mountains close to the borders with China and Kyrgyzstan was Kazakhstan’s capital until 1997, when the title passed to Astana, but it remains the biggest city in the country.
Almaty already co-hosted with Astana the Asian Winter Games in 2011 and is gearing up to host the Winter Universiade student Games in 2017.
As a result, it can boast that many of the facilities are already in place, including a world class new ski jumping complex.
The Medeu rink is currently open air but organisers are planning to put a temporary roof over it so it can host the speed skating events.
“The existing infrastructure is our main advantage,” said Andrey Kryukov, the representative of Almaty city for the bid.
Kazakhstan, by far the wealthiest nation in ex-Soviet Central Asia, is currently on a drive to host major sporting events.
Should the Games be awarded to Kazakhstan, it would be the first time the Olympics are held in a majority-Muslim independent country.
The chairman of Kazakhstan’s Sports Agency Tastanbek Yessentayev said the bid was guaranteed by the government and President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the country since before independence.
“We have every chance to host the Games at the very highest level,” he said.
The organisers also shrugged off suggestions that the recent protests over the plunge in value of the Kazakh tenge could have any impact on the bid.
The other candidates are Beijing, Krakow, Oslo and fellow ex-Soviet hopeful Lviv in western Ukraine, whose bid is currently being undermined by the turmoil in the country.