GLOBAL SPOTLIGHT

Kazakhstan 2015 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ilya Urazakov, Director of the Winter Universiade, on organizing an international sporting event and the legacy it will leave.

Ilya Urazakov
BIOGRAPHY
Ilya Urazakov was appointed as Director of the Winter Universiade 2017 Organizing Committee Executive Directorate in November 2013. Several years before joining the Organizing Committee, he acted as Deputy Director of the Youth Policy Development Fund within Almaty city’s administration. Prior to that, he gained a vast expertise in Kazakhstani media, occupying a number of senior positions within national TV channels and managing his own company. He graduated from Kazakh Ablai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages. He also holds an MBA from the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research.

Two years are left until the Winter Universiade takes place. How is the work progressing?

We are now in an active phase of preparation because we have already finished all of our operational plans. One of the main problems for Kazakhstan is the lack of specialists. We do not have enough professional staff, especially at a multi-functional level when major sporting events take place. It is a huge task for Kazakhstan to work on acquiring these technical staff and resolving these sports management issues. Our organization focuses on educational programs as well. One of the things that I mention all the time is the importance of legacy. We have to think about the overall future of our country and what kind of legacy we will leave after our project. This includes what kind of sports infrastructure and staff we will be left with. If we do this work the right way, Almaty will get a professional team to organize events such as the Universiade and even bigger events.

From a technical and infrastructural point of view, you have to meet the high standards expected for any Universiade. What kinds of venues and infrastructure will be built, renovated, or developed for the event?

For this Universiade, we have three new venues—two sports venues and one non-sports venue. There is an athletes' village for 5,000 people and two ice arenas—required by International University Sports Federation (FISU) standards. One ice arena will be used for hockey—it will have 3,000 seats, and the other is for figure skating, and the opening and closing ceremonies. It will be a huge arena with 12,000 seats. Each of these arenas has additional ice rinks and one of them has a swimming pool. For training and preparation, as well as relaxation, these are the International Olympic Committee (IOC) standards we must comply with. In addition, some necessary changes and technical updates of our existing sport venues as are still being discovered. The Universiade is important for bidding for the Olympic Games. After our preparation for the Universiade, a maximum of 10-15% of these assets will be used to update resources for the Olympic Games. All the standards are set by the International Sports Federations, including the International Ski Federation, Speed-Skating Federation, Hockey, and Curling Federation.

How do you plan to increase awareness about this event, not only among the local community but also internationally?

I think that the promotional activities should start the day after winning a bid. We must understand that promotion is one of the most important steps for a project. Even if we host the games at the highest level, without spectators it's not a complete success. Things have not been done properly in the past. That is why it is crucial to do things differently, and in the right way, to involve the spectators and tourists. Currently, our plan is to invite between 90,000 and 110,000 tourists to Almaty for these games. I think we have to pay attention to the local tourists from Kazakhstan as well, rather than just to the international tourists. I am not speaking just about the competition now. It is one of our tasks to not only organize sports competitions, but also to create sporting occasions—sporting holidays with concerts, festivals, and exhibitions. The first task is to create the conditions for potential tourists to come here. The second step is the promotion of festivals and other events to bring them to the people's attention.