Turkmenistan’s top-notch Olympic complex completed for Ashgabat 2017

SCMP

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The Games, the biggest ever international multi-sport event hosted by Turkmenistan, will involve thousands of elite athletes from 65 delegations, coming from all across Asia and Oceania. In fact, almost one-third of the sporting world will be participating. With 21 sports in traditional Olympic, non-Olympic and Asian sports, Ashgabat 2017 will likely be remembered as one with the richest programmes.  

The organisers knew very well that the truly international sporting event must be matched by top-notch sporting facilities. So this vivid Central Asian country set out to design and build these stellar facilities years before.

In November 2010, the construction of the largest sporting complex in the Central Asian region started in the central area of the Turkmen capital city. The infrastructure of the Ashgabat Olympic Complex (AOC) is formed around the Olympic Stadium. The complex comprises over 30 different sites, including 13 out of 15 world-class competition venues, plus the Athletes Village, assorted hotels, a full medical centre, media centre, and a monorail running around the perimeter.  

Taking centre stage in the Complex is the brand new Ashgabat Olympic Stadium. Featuring a modern design, the 45,000-seat stadium pays homage to the revered symbol of Turkmenistan – the famous and much loved Akhal-teke horse. This splendid creature adorns the roof of a structure that has already become a new icon of Ashgabat, and without a doubt, its image will leave a long lasting legacy for Turkmen sports.

The Ashgabat Olympic Stadium will host the dramatic Opening Ceremony on September 17 and also the Closing Ceremony on September 27.

With a capacity of 15,000 spectators, the Main Indoor Arena is the largest competition venue on the AOC. Located in the south of the Complex, the stadium will host three combat sports: Wrestling, Belt Wrestling and Traditional Wrestling. Expect roaring cheers from the loyal home supporters as these are some of the traditional sports of the hosting country.

Also located in the south are the Taekwondo DanceSports Arena, the Billiard Sports Arena, the Martial Arts Arena (MAA) for the Sambo, Ju Jitsu and Kurash competitions, the Muaythai and Kickboxing Arena, and the Weightlifting Arena. 

On the opposite side of the Olympic Stadium, at the north of the AOC, are the Aquatics Centre for the Short Course Swimming competition, the Indoor Tennis Centre, the Velodrome for the Track Cycling, and the 3x3 Basketball Arena. Also located here are the Indoor Athletics Arena, the Bowling Centre, and the Chess Centre. 

As part of the Inspiring Ashgabat test event series earlier in April, the Asian Kickboxing Championships, the Senior Asian Weightlifting Championships and the Central Asian Short Course Swimming Tournament were all hosted at the MAA, at the Weightlifting Arena and the Aquatics Centre respectively, proving the new facilities are ready for the Games.  

Only two competition venues are not located on the AOC. The Multifunctional Sport Venue, located less than 500 metres from the Ashgabat Olympic Complex, will host the Futsal competition. The Equestrian Centre located to the northeast of Ashgabat city, approximately 9 kilometres from the Ashgabat Olympic Complex, meanwhile, will host the Equestrian Jumping competition. 

The host nation has also ensured that all visitors will enjoy a smooth and trouble-free experience outside the main sporting venues, as well. The 5.1-kilometre monorail system snaking its way across the 54-hectare property not only connects all the infrastructure within the Ashgabat Olympic Complex, but also provides a comfortable transport system for athletes and officials to move effortlessly between the Athletes Village and the various venues.

The monorail train, which consists of four compartments, was designed to accommodate a total of 75 passengers each time – moving at a pre-set cruising speed of 46 km/h during the time of the Games, although it can attain a top speed of 70 km/h.

Rolling along at this speed, the train will be able to complete the eight-station circuit in 17 minutes. Three trains, which collectively can transport up to 810 passengers every hour, will run simultaneously during Ashgabat 2017.

With great vision, the Ashgabat Olympic Complex has been designed and built to provide not only the best sporting venues, but also some of the best broadcast- and media-friendly facilities ever seen anywhere. 

Broadcasting from the AOC has been made easy by the clever design and construction of technical infrastructure. This allows broadcasters to use the facilities at many venues without the need to bring in large broadcast vans; all they need do is simply plug their equipment into the permanent circuits in the complex, and using the integrated production studios, they can then instantly broadcast live in Turkmenistan or internationally.  

The Main Media Centre, located next to the Athletes Village on the Complex, is the hub for all media activity during the games and is the headquarters of the Broadcast and Media Operations Department. This four-storey media facility offers dedicated space for both TV and radio broadcasters and print or internet media to cover the Games.  

Thousands of athletes from all participating delegations will be staying in the Athletes Village located within the AOC. Comprising of fourteen 12-floor buildings with 1,276 apartments or a total capacity of almost 6,000, the Athletes Village includes recreation areas for athletes to rest and relax. Televisions, wireless internet, laptop computers, board games, Wii, as well as quiet rooms, are also available.

Turkmenistan also has a long-term plan in mind for the future post-Games utilisation of the Complex. Serious about hosting other major competitions in the capital city in the near future, the ready-made facilities will help the country in that goal.

After the Games, all these splendid facilities can be best used by future generations of athletes. National higher educational institutions of Turkmenistan are located next to the Ashgabat Olympic Complex: Turkmen State Institute of Economics and Management; the Institute of Culture; the State Border Service Academy of Turkmenistan and the National Institute of Sports and Tourism. This will enable the sport facilities to be used for many decades as an educational and training base for these universities.

Ashgabat 2017 will offer 12 unforgettable days of sporting competition with over 220 sessions to watch. Ticket sales across the country have already begun. More than 700,000 tickets are available at eight ticket sales points in Ashgabat, plus six more across all other regions, offering the opportunity to all Turkmen people to visit the state-of-the-art Ashgabat Olympic Complex.

To encourage spectators to enjoy the experience of live international sports taking place in Ashgabat, tickets for sport sessions will be priced between 7 TMT (2 USD) and 10 TMT (2.9 USD) for adults, while children under 14 will be admitted free, making it affordable for the absolute majority to enjoy the Games.  

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