It was almost seven years ago that Turkmenistan announced it would host the 2017 edition of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. To mark the announcement, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in late December, 2010, led a pack of government officials on a grueling trek up the Walk of Health, a steep concrete staircase poured into the side of the foothills outside the capital, Ashgabat, as an exhortation to salutary living.
Preparations for the games have been inflicting misery on the population ever since.
On August 17, it will be exactly a month before the competition begins. To memorialize the start of the countdown, the government will repeat the car-free experiment it ran on July 29, although this time only in Ashgabat.
From 7 am to 7 pm, only public transport – including taxis and emergency vehicles – will be permitted to circulate around the city. Anybody unable to cram into the packed buses or pay for a taxi will be free to cycle, as Berdymukhamedov has advised, in temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit). Those who do not own a bicycle – which is most people – will just have to walk.
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