UNIVERSIADE IN ALMATY ENDS WELL

Kazakhstan’s City of Almaty recently hosted the 2017 Winter Universiade, a winter sports competition attended by young sports people from many countries.  Despite concerns about the public cost of sponsoring the events (US $52 million has been suggested), scepticism about receiving any financial boost from tourism, worries about the future utility of some of the structures (the athletes’ village in particular), and fears of disruption of city life (the schools were closed and streets are often clogged), residents of Almaty seem to have had a generally positive view of the Universiade, as shown by a recent poll.

Here is the full text of a report put out on the website of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs based on findings of public opinion polls:

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Research finds Almaty Residents Happy about Universiade

After the Winter Universiade in Almaty ended, the number of Almaty residents who reacted positively to the event increased from 68 to 77 percent and the number of people who believe the event was a stress for the city fell from 42 to 30 percent.  This was reflected in a report by the Kazakhstan Association of Professional Researchers of Public Opinion and Markets published Feb. 21.

 

“However, business’ hopes to gain financially were apparently not justified, since the number of responses considering the Universaide an additional business opportunity significantly decreased from 72 to 58 percent.  The readiness of the sports facilities was considered ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ by 90 percent of respondents, nine percent called it ‘medium’ and only one percent thought it was ‘bad.’  The availability of transport to sports venues was poorly rated by six percent, and service was given ‘bad’ evaluations by three percent of Almaty residents,” the report reads.

The researchers suggest that the increased popularity of the Universiade is due to informational support, which since the start of the event increased from 31 to 85 percent.  The number of people tracking the performances of Universiade athletes on the Internet increased from five to 30 percent, and on television from 37 to 62 percent.  Thirty -eight percent planned to attend events at the beginning of the competition, a number that remained the same at the end.  Respondents were also more likely to say the Universiade had crated improvements in the city by the end of the event with those saying it had improved the appearance of the city moving from 63 to 70 percent, road conditions from 41 to 54 percent, city transport from 35 to 47 percent, the image of the city administration from 53 to 64 percent and the image of the country from 69 to 77 percent. (kazior.kz)

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I asked people I know in Almaty about their reaction to the Universiade.  In general, the replies were positive.  No one had any information about the hoped-for influx of foreign tourists specifically for the events.  Official estimates prior to the events indicated that about 3,000 such tourists were expected.  (During the events, one wag posted a photograph of the front of Almaty’s airport terminal which, in mid-day, revealed a paucity of activity.)  An enthusiast wrote: “I visited hockey, skiing, biathlon, skating and jumps.  All excellently organised. Surprising but true.  Who did not whine and wanted to visit could get the tickets and enjoy the sport.”

I think there is lingering official concern about how to make use of some of the newly constructed buildings but, by and large, the Universiade seems to have been at least as good as officially hoped for, was acceptably disruptive to the city of Almaty, and showed off the city – and the country – to good advantage.  It may also have had some positive benefits in terms of the promotion of tourism in general while not being very successful itself as a touristic project.

Photo:  Almaty Arena from the website for the 28th Winter Universiade, Almaty – Almaty2017.com

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Book Sales:  Find stories about Kazakhstan from the 1990s and later in my book, West Meets East in Kazakhstan.  It’s available online in softcover or e-book format from AuthorHouse (the publisher), or Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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