Come September 2017, thousands of committed athletes will descend upon Ashgabat, also known as the city of love. The capital city of Turkmenistan is set to host the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, and it’s set to be bigger than ever.
History and the road ahead
To give you a brief background of this multi-sport event, let’s rewind to the year 2005, when the very first Asian Indoor Games was held in Bangkok, Thailand. The Olympic Council of Asia realised that if a sports culture truly has to be developed in the continent, then a wide variety of sports should have a global platform. This thinking led to the birth of the Asian Indoor Games.
The 2007 Asian Indoor Games paved the way for the success of one sport in particular. 3x3 Basketball was played for the very first time on a global stage in Macau, and the positive response meant that the sport would then make its debut at the 2010 Youth Olympics. Time and again, the Asian Indoor Games have proved to be a hotbed for successfully testing new and promising sports.
While the Indoor Games gained momentum, the Asian Martial Arts Games came to the fore too. In 2009, 37 nations took part in the inaugural multi-combat event held in Bangkok. The unprecedented success of this tournament was a sign of things to come.
The Olympic Council of Asia figured that merging the Indoor Games and the Martial Arts Games would result in a windfall for all the stakeholders involved, especially the fans and the athletes. This decision eventually led to the very first Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games being held in 2013 at Incheon, South Korea.
At the time of the merger, only the first part of the Ashgabat Olympic Complex existed. A testament to the progress of the complex is that the same location now hosts 13 of the 15 competition venues, all world class, needed for the upcoming Games.
The complex is set to provide a platform for athletes from 65 delegations to showcase their skills in 21 sports - a jewel in Turkmenistan’s growing crown of sporting facilities.
Now, in 2017, Turkmenistan will become the first country from Central Asia to host the Games. The event presents a unique opportunity for fans across the world to not only witness the Games, but also marvel at the world-class architecture on show.
Another first for the AIMAG would be the presence of countries from Oceania. The 5th edition will be the biggest in the history of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games and the participation of the Oceania countries is yet another feather in the cap of the organisers.
Ashgabat holds a World Record
The venue for the 5th edition - Ashgabat - holds a unique position in the Guinness Book of World Records. The city is home to the largest number of white marble buildings on the planet. Close to 550 buildings have been made using marble in the city, and in total, they cover 4.5 million square metres.
Against the backdrop of these radiating towers, elite athletes have an opportunity to shine like never before. And to ensure that the Games run smoothly, 10,000 volunteers will be on deck during the 12-day competition.
The spectators can also look forward to witnessing some unique and interesting competitions. 3x3 Basketball, already mentioned above, is played on a half court with a single hoop over the course of 10 minutes. The first team to reach 21 points or the side with the most points at the end of 10 minutes wins the match.
Kurash is another sport that could capture the attention of millions. A Turkic word, ‘kurash’ translates to wrestling and involves the use of several traditional folk wrestling moves. This form of grappling was invented by the Uzbeks – an ethnic group from Central Asia which comprises people from 11 different nations including Turkmenistan.
How the dream came to fruition
Turkmenistan’s dream to successfully host a large-scale, international, multi-sport event is finally set to turn into reality. But this transformation hasn’t come overnight. The seeds of this dream were firmly sown seven years ago, on 19 December 2010, when the marble city of Ashgabat officially won the right to host the Games.
Less than 100 days now remain for the marquee event to begin. The President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov recently visited The Athletes Village, which can accommodate over 12,000 people. It also has a variety of amenities like a community dining room, a restaurant, a theatre, cafes, museum, a library, music studio and a post office.
And most importantly, if any athlete wishes to emulate the new Cristiano Ronaldo haircut, there’s a salon too.
For more information about Ashgabat 2017, visit ashgabat2017.com/tickets.Published 30 Jun 2017, 19:20 IST