Turkmenistan delivers breathtaking 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games
We were promised the greatest show ever to be staged in Central Asia, and Turkmenistan did not let us down!
Over 12 days of exhilarating sport, the country’s capital city Ashgabat delivered one of the most spectacular multi-sport events in living memory.
The Olympic Council of Asia was quick to declare the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games as an overwhelming success as the sporting world awaits with bated breath to hear what’s next from the ambitious country.
But first, the organisers can reflect on a glorious introduction into the competitive industry of sports hosting.
As soon as it was awarded the Games in 2010, Ashgabat launched an infrastructure development programme to turn the city into a formidable sporting destination.
Such was the pace of progress, all venues were finished and tested well ahead of time.
At the heart of the development is the Ashgabat Olympic Complex where 13 of the 15 competition venues were built. Its centrepiece is the 45,000-seater Olympic Stadium which housed the spectacular Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
The 6,000 athletes and officials, who were housed in the newly constructed Athletes Village situated across the road from the Complex, were connected to the venues by a 5.1km monorail capable of transporting 75 passengers at a time in comfort.
It all worked seamlessly well with the Games providing one of the most compact and centralised facilities for an event of this size and stature.
The host nation didn’t disappoint its expectant nation either. With the event programme front-loaded with Wrestling events, Turkmenistan raced into an unassailable lead and continued to add medals throughout all disciplines to top the table.
The Games' most successful athlete was Turkmenistan’s Seydi Batyrow who took an incredible six gold medals from the six events he entered to become an immediate national hero.
“I feel great,” he said. “The excitement grew with each gold and when I won the sixth, coming to the mixed zone from the medal ceremony, my phone did not stop ringing. My relatives wanted to say congratulations. It is a tremendous feeling. Now I have to practice more in order to be better."
Another highlight was a new Weightlifting world record set by Iran’s Moradi Sohrab in the men's 94kg.
“This is the result of many years of work and I am very happy and delighted with my efforts,” said the Rio Olympic gold medallist. "One of my goals as an athlete was to win an Olympic gold. But this is important too because I really wanted to do it. I am happy to do this.”
How did the Indians fare?
The Indian contingent of 201 athletes rubbed shoulders with the continent’s best at the AIMAG. Many of them who still have to worry about their livelihood back home put a strong foot forward and provided gutsy performances which yielded 40 medals including 9 golds, India’s best ever medal tally at the Games.
Their excellent performances in Indoor Athletics resulted in five gold medals out of the nine in total. The Wrestling arena also gave the Indian fans much to cheer as the Indian wrestlers tallied nine medals which included a gold. What was refreshing to see was Indians winning medals at events like men’s doubles in Bowling, 100m men’s Butterfly in Swimming & Women’s team sprint in Track Cycling.
The games also proved to be very successful for the Indian Tennis players as they walked away with two gold medals and three silvers.
With the Games now over, the organisers can reflect on a truly memorable celebration.
“I am humbled by what has been achieved by this great nation and it is all thanks to the visionary leadership of our Esteemed President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov,” said Dayanch Gulgeldiyev, Chairman of the Executive Committee.
“Ashgabat 2017 was a historic moment for Turkmenistan, and all Turkmen can feel a sense of national pride in what we have accomplished together. I thank each and every one of those who has played a part in this success story. But this is just the start as I am sure we can expect more big sporting events here in the future.”
But the big question will be what’s next for Turkmenistan.
The International Federations present will certainly have been impressed by both the venues and the incredible warmth shown to the sporting community by the host nation. It can only bode well for a potential return.
One common theme running throughout the 12 days of sport was the long-term benefits that the country will enjoy from hosting this event.
As well as the possibility of hosting future big events, the organisers have been stressing the availability of these new world-class facilities to the wider Turkmen public.
The country has an unquenchable thirst for sport and has striven to use these Games as a catalyst for promoting the values of sport into the everyday lives of all its citizens.
Over 8,000 people, mostly students, signed up for the First Stars volunteer programme which saw them all receive top class training from international facilitators. This in itself will provide immeasurable benefits as they embark on their professional paths over the coming years.
So, with an impressive haul of medals from Ashgabat 2017 and crowds flocking to watch in the thousands, you can understand why there is an air of optimism.
One thing is for sure though, we have not heard the last of Turkmenistan.