Bashkortostan special report: Ufa - A sporting challenge
As well as a centre for world-class summits and business forums, Ufa is also rapidly making a name for itself as a venue for international sporting events.
In the past two years, the city has played host to contests including the Summer Biathlon World Championship, the World Junior Ice Hockey Championship and the 6th International Children’s Winter Games. Its greatest sporting challenge, however, could lie ahead, following the announcement in January that the Russian Federation had chosen Ufa as its candidate city for the 2021 World Games.
The news was warmly welcomed by policy-makers in Bashkortostan. "We are very excited by the prospect of hosting the World Games in Ufa," says Andrey Ivanyuta, the Republic’s minister of sports and youth policy. "We are working hard to develop our sporting capabilities and infrastructure, and this will provide a valuable incentive."
|Andrey Ivanyuta, the Republic’s minister of sports and youth policy|
Founded in 1981, the World Games take place over 11 days and feature more than 30 sports and disciplines that are not contested in the Olympic Games. These include strength sports, precision sports, ball sports, martial arts, artistic and dance sports. The World Games are held every four years, in the year following the summer Olympics, and are organized by the International World Games Association (IWGA), under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The winner of the competition to hold the 2021 contest will be announced next year.
Ivanyuta notes that Ufa is well placed to host the games, partly thanks to its rapidly developing infrastructure and partly to Bashkortostan’s distinguished sporting heritage.
Unsurprisingly, given its climate and extensive mountain access, the Republic’s more notable strengths are in winter sports, including ice hockey, biathlon, ski jumping, luge and short track skating. Bashkortostan contributed 14 athletes to the Russian team for the Winter Olympics in Sochi – the sixth highest number of any Russian region – in disciplines ranging from snowboarding and bobsleigh to ice hockey. The Republic is also strong in summer sports, however, with popular disciplines including athletics, boxing, basketball, volleyball and football.
In addition, the region is rapidly developing as a national centre for Paralympic sports. At the Paralympic Games 2012 in London, athletes from Bashkortostan took 12 gold and five silver medals – one-third of the total medals won by the Russian Federation at the games. The Republic also fielded five Paralympic competitors at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
This achievement has been recognized by the federal government, which has chosen Ufa as the venue for a national Sports Training Centre. Due to open in 2015, the complex of over 37,000 sqm will represent an investment of R2.5 billion and will be the largest specialized centre in the country. It will feature two swimming pools, as well as extensive sports grounds, a rehabilitation centre and dedicated medical facilities.