Host Kazakhstan Sweeps the Asian Games, Eyes Olympic Bid
Kazakhstan is patting itself on the back after the Asian Winter Games came to a close on February 6 and its athletes topped the award table with a haul of 70 medals. Officials -- pointing to their success as both host and competitor -- already have their hearts set on hosting the Olympic Winter Games.“We have learned to understand each other better. I believe this is the main achievement of these Games”, announced President Nursultan Nazarbayev, speaking at the closing ceremony in Almaty. He added that the games showed to the whole world that Kazakhstan has the infrastructure and facilities to host a major international sports competition.Kazakhstan picked up 32 gold medals, 21 silver medals and 17 bronze medals, well ahead of its nearest rivals Japan and South Korea. China placed a disappointing fourth at the medal table. Kazakhstan cleaned the board in a new event for these games, ski orienteering, winning eight golds. It also won the inaugural bandy competition, crushing Mongolia 16-2 in the final. Only three teams took part in the tournament, which gave Kyrgyzstan a rare chance to pick up a bronze medal. There was grumbling in some quarters that the Kazakhs had taken an unfair advantage by fielding up to six competitors in events, whilst other countries were limited to just two. There were also complaints that events such as snowboarding had been left out of the games in favor of events the Kazakhs are strong in, thus guaranteeing a big haul of medals. Astana brushed these complaints aside and is now setting its sights on a bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, officials told International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge after a meeting in Astana on January 31.
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.