Russia’s ancient Kazan thrives as sports capital
Interspersed among minarets and candy-colored church domes, world-class sports venues dot the landscape in Kazan, a Russian cultural hub that has earned a reputation as an international sports capital. The city of 1.2 million, located some 700 kilometers east of Moscow on the banks of the Volga River, is hosting the draw for the 2017 Confederations Cup today and is something of a Russian sporting Makkah. Kazan, the administrative capital of Russia’s oil-rich, majority-Muslim Tatarstan region, has hosted international and European competitions in weightlifting, hockey, figure skating, boxing, swimming and fencing, among a long list of disciplines. Most memorably, the city hosted the 2013 Summer Universiade and the FINA World Championships last year.
City officials say that hosting the Universiade - world student games - was a major milestone that considerably boosted the development of sports infrastructure. “More than 30 new sports venues were built from scratch, while 19 others were completely renovated,” Kazan deputy mayor Damir Fattakhov said. “The hosting of the student games became a powerful spur to developing the city’s sports infrastructure.” Fattakhov added that the city authorities also encouraged student sport by transferring the ownership of 18 sports venues to a local sports academy, a university and other educational institutions. “That was a wise decision. Now Kazan students have excellent opportunities to take part in sports at up-todate venues,” he added.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin called Kazan the “sports capital of Russia” during a visit to the city in 2013 and repeated this during a visit to Tatarstan in April. “People here know what sport is, they love it and are capable of organizing the major sports events,” he said at the meeting of his sports council. Kazan was founded as a fortress in 1005 and was part of the Golden Horde Mongol empire before in the 15th century becoming the capital of a powerful Tatar principality called the Kazan khanate. The city joined the Russian Empire in 1552 after being seized by Ivan the Terrible, who ordered thousands of Russians to resettle there. — AFP
MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin places his hand on an official match ball for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, named ‘Krasava’, during a meeting with FIFA president at the Kremlin yesterday on the eve of the Confederations Cup draw to be held in Kazan. —AFP