Kazakhstan is patting itself on the back after a successful conclusion to the Universiade 2017 winter student games in Almaty.
“Universiade 2017 has proved to be a true festival of sport for all Kazakhstanis,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev said in a statement posted on his official website.
The games culminated with a boisterous closing ceremony which saw athletes parading through the 12,000-capacity Almaty Arena to a soundtrack of pulsating Kazakh music provided by the group Ulytau, 150 drummers and other stars from Kazakhstan.
“The 28th Winter Universiade has taken place at a high level, despite the modest budget input,” Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev told the crowd at the closing ceremony.
“Over a billion viewers followed the Universiade. We have seen how sports, health and culture facilities, that are going to function for the good of our country's inhabitants, were erected in a short time. We are proud of our victories and we thank you all,” he said.
Nazarbayev offered further congratulations to Kazakhstan’s athletes on finishing second on the medal table with 11 golds, 8 silvers and 17 bronzes, behind only Russia who scooped up more than one-third of the gold medals on offer.
“The triumph of our athletes will further encourage and promote the development of winter sports and set the example for the upcoming generation,” the president said.
Despite some problems along the way, the games, held in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital Almaty, are being viewed as a success with packed houses for many of the events and a rich medal haul for Kazakhstan’s home-grown talent.
The games, the biggest ever sports event ever held in Kazakhstan, were also an organizational triumph for Almaty. The showcase event managed to overcome the city’s notorious traffic congestion by providing a fleet of buses to transport spectators on dedicated lanes to the venues from the city center. Not even the weather could halt the games — a heavy snowfall in the first week caused some skiing events to be rescheduled.
Kazakhstan’s hopes of finishing Universiade 2017 on a high note were dashed by a narrow 1-0 defeat to Russia in the event-closing men's hockey final, despite vocal home support in the 3,000-seater Halyk Arena, with volunteers dressed in green hoodies whipping up the crowd.
This army of volunteers will now be readying for Kazakhstan’s next major event, the EXPO 2017 international fair, which will take place in the capital, Astana, later this year.