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16th FINA World Championships

July 24 - August 9, 2015
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Fina - FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DENATATION

Azat Kadyrov: Kazan will transform again for the World Championships

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02.07.2015, 10:08 Interviews
Director General of the Executive Directorate for Sports Projects, Azat Kadyrov, sat down for an interview with the Press Office of the Organising Committee for the 16th FINA World Championships and explained how the organisers managed to struggle through the economic crisis and why the decision to host swimming and synchronised swimming events at the football stadium seemed like a logical thing to do.

Our Team’s experience enables us to address any challenges 

– There’s less than one month left to go until the kickoff of the 2015 FINA World Championships. What challenges did you have to face in the home stretch?

– The preparation process is carried out on a tight schedule, strictly according to the plan. But I don’t think it will be accurate to say that we encounter some challenges. Issues arising in the build-up to the event are simply part of a daily preparation process; some of them are intricate and some of them are simple. We have a range of tasks related to the infrastructure and it is quite extensive. I’m not saying that we had little work to do before the Universiade but right now this range of tasks is more technologically sophisticated. For example, the Kazan Arena Stadium is in itself a large multifunctional architectural venue, and there are other facilities – pools – installed inside of it. And it’s a multiple-stage engineering and technical process. Of course, we have to face certain difficulties concerning the necessity to constantly approve design concepts. But we work according to the approved schedule, therefore everything proceeds as we planned.

A large team including republican departments has been working hard to make these Championships happen. Without such a well-coordinated team of professionals, the preparation of this year’s most large-scale sporting event would have been simply impossible. The build-up to the World Championships is supervised by Interim President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov while Tatarstan’s Prime Minister Ildar Khalikov is monitoring works on a daily basis. And all this helps us to make progress. We are constantly in touch with federal colleagues. I would like to thank them as well for their support and assistance, especially as far as the arrangement of visa-free entry and facilitated customs procedures is concerned. Major efforts are made across all areas of preparation, including security, transport and broadcasting. Some issues are addressed at the republican level and some with the assistance of federal bodies of legislative and executive power. They play a huge role in the preparation of the FINA World Championships and continue to actively work together under guidance of Vitaly Mutko, Minister of Sport of Russia and Chairman of the Organising Committee. Our coordinating body – the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of Russia – helps to quickly resolve most issues. Working in such a team, I have no doubts that we will complete all preparation works on time and to the highest standard.

– Don’t you think that despite a range of technological tasks at the Kazan Arena Stadium and other challenges in the build-up, it is somehow easier to prepare the 16th FINA World Championships with all this tangible and intangible legacy left after the Universiade, especially since the same team is involved in the staging of the upcoming sporting event?

– Of course, at this stage it’s easier for our team to prepare and deliver the second major event as we have certain knowledge, certain experience. We now have the Team that Knows how It Should Be Done. But at the same time many other things emerged that we didn’t encounter when staging the Universiade. They were not typical for the University Games but without them it’s impossible to deliver competitions in Olympic sports within our FINA World Championships. Since the tournament serves as a qualifier ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, we have encountered a number of obligatory tasks that we’ve never faced before. But our team’s experience allows us to tackle the entire spectrum of issues and meet our obligations to FINA and sponsors.   

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While designing the Kazan Arena Stadium, we envisaged that a pool would be installed there

– If we speak about tasks, prior to the bid submission process there was no obligation for Kazan to stage swimming events at the football stadium or to create a single cluster putting venues close to each other. Was it really necessary for Kazan to embark on such challenges?

– Yes, all these design concepts were developed during the bid submission stage and were featured in the bid book. Why the football stadium? It was a logical step and we took this step in accordance with the FINA requirements. The regulations say that the main pool’s seating capacity must be no less than 10,000 people. As you know there are no such pools in Kazan. That’s the reason why we had to use our football stadium as the main competition venue. But we were aware of such a possibility already in the planning stage that’s why carried out required evaluations.

As far as your second part of the question is concerned, everything is simple. The Kazan Arena Stadium and Aquatics Palace was located next to each other, within walking distance. Keeping it in mind and being obliged to set up the FINA Water World Park, the idea itself has emerged on its own account to create a single cluster so that all facilities will be close to each other. And this, together with the use of already existing venues, was the special appeal of Kazan’s bid campaign. So yes, this was the task which we have set ourselves but we did it to achieve a greater goal and to host the largest tournaments in 2015 that is rated among the top three sporting events in the world and has a massive television audience.

These competitions will bring together the world’s top athletes in aquatic sports and already today we can see how genuinely all water sports fans are interested in the upcoming event. I can say with confidence that all the efforts made during the bid process were not in vain. Everything was done for the sake of the event that draws millions of tourists from all over the world and billions of television viewers.

– Even with all things considered nobody could predict that you will have to prepare the World Championships in the context of an economic crisis and unstable political situation. Did it somehow affect the preparation progress?

– Even after the Universiade we couldn’t predict that something like this may happen. Surely, the current situation had a certain impact on the preparation process but it didn’t affect us profoundly. The crisis didn’t hit us hard but we felt its after affects when implementing the marketing programme. However, despite all limitations and difficulties, we’ve managed to successfully handle the situation and I’m thankful to our partners for this. I’m not saying that we’ve limited ourselves or we had to postpone scheduled events. Yes, during my earlier meetings with reporters I said that we will probably have to give up some positions. But thanks to the support from federal and republican authorities, we succeeded to implement the preparation plan to the full extent. As a result, we didn’t have to postpone, reduce, decrease or give up anything.

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Under current circumstances we sought to attract Russian partners

– Moreover, if you look at the situation from a different angle, current circumstances enabled you to support domestic producers. Do you agree with this opinion?

– Exactly! Many Russian companies joined our national partnership programme. There are actually 80% of them. Therefore, this way we are implementing the so-called import substitution programme. As you know, we are provided with cars by AVTOVAZ, we also cooperate with NEFIS Group, sports equipment is supplied by Sportmaster, and we also have Kaspersky Laboratory as our partner and many others. All in all, we did our best to attract Russian partners in as many categories as we could. And we should thank these companies’ executives that they took a sound decision and joined our project.

– Usually the organisers start dressing the city 3-5 days before the start of the tournament. But it was announced in Kazan that city dressing will begin in early July. What is the reason for this?

– We all remember the Universiade and this unforgettable atmosphere that it gave to us. This time we have some sort of ‘Olympic Games’ in aquatic sports. We will have the same athletes that will be showing off their skills in Rio de Janeiro next year. And in one year we will see them on our TV screens and remember with pride that we’ve seen these champions in flesh here in Kazan.

And in order to remind citizens and visitors about the upcoming major sporting event, it was decided to start landscaping and gardening works in advance. If you’ve noticed the number of flower beds in the city grows every day. I know that the Mayor of Kazan personally tours all key routes on a daily basis and inspects the progress of work. We are also present at these inspection tours and see how the areas around the Championships venues and streets where most visitors will be getting around can be improved and beautified.

In just a few days we will start dressing the city. It will begin transforming in the first week of July. Quite soon it will reveal its new look with a vibrant colour palette added to it (smiles).

– But the city is beautiful as it is. Why not to just hang five-six posters a few days before the start of the World Championships and be done with it?

– But it will not provide the atmosphere of festivity that we’ve been looking forward to for such a long time! A couple of posters will not allow citizens and visitors to experience this mega event to the fullest extent. And the city dressing that we are currently preparing is a key way to build anticipation for a great festivity.  To give people the atmosphere that cannot be touched, seen or smelled. It can only be felt. But to enable people to sense it, it should be in the air. That’s why we decided to dress the city properly in the colours of the upcoming Championships in advance.

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Today, it is possible to buy a ticket to the 2015 World Championships in the comfort of one’s home

– There is an interesting situation with ticket sales. Usually people start to buy up tickets the day before or during the first days of the tournament. However, a month before the start of the Championships it was announced that one third of tickets have already been sold. Are you happy with how the sales go on? 

– That’s right. Usually people buy tickets right before the competitions, but in order to avoid unnecessary tension and fuss, I would recommend sports fans to buy tickets in advance. And, of course, I was very pleased to hear that most people do so. So, the present sales dynamics satisfies us completely, the demand exists not only in Russia but also abroad. And for those who haven’t bought the tickets yet, our advice is not to wait until the last minute. Today, it is easy enough to do it at the comfort of one’s home. You just need to visit the portal of state services. There are enough ticket offices around the city for those who prefer the traditional options of ticket purchase. They are located at each metro station, at the Kazan Arena Stadium and the Russian Post offices. There are no problems with this.

And I also recommend to purchase tickets to the Pilgrim show. Technically, it is a re-run of the Opening Ceremony with the exception of the official parade of flags. We have made an unprecedented  decision to re-run it eight times in order to provide an opportunity to citizens and visitors of Kazan to see it with their own eyes, to appreciate its beauty and creative concept and to discover the spring of life that will be mentioned in the Pilgrim show.

- Was it a deliberate decision to start working with production director Alexey Sechenov with whom you’ve already successfully collaborated during the Universiade?

– Yes, that’s right. It was a deliberate decision. We are perfectly aware of the event’s scale and we want the Opening and Closing Ceremonies to be a beautiful and unforgettable celebration. That is why Interim President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minikhanov and Mayor of Kazan Ilsur Metshin decided to entrust these ceremonies to the creative group of Igor Krutoy and production director Alexey Sechenov. And this decision was approved by Vitaly Mutko. We know their opportunities and deeply value the talent and ideas of people engaged in the organisation of the Opening Ceremony. There is no doubt that they will prepare a beautiful and meaningful performance, where all spectators will be able to participate.

Olympics? There are a number of projects that we can implement at lower costs

– If we follow the logic, it seems that after the Universiade, FINA World Championships and FIFA World Cup citizens might well expect that the greatest sporting event of all times – the Olympics – can be held in Kazan as well. Judging by feedback from all over the world, Kazan is ready for it. Don’t you think the same way?

– It's true that thanks to the 2013 Summer Universiade and the support given by the Russian President and Government, we’ve made a huge breakthrough in the development of sports and urban infrastructure. Kazan has become a completely different city and, most importantly, people’s way of thinking has also changed. Now our people have faith in themselves, in tomorrow and are ready to embark on major projects. We have to admit that we were lucky to be born and to live in this wonderful city and republic and to have leaders who encourage us to bid for such mega projects and to win these bids. It’s our great happiness.

But, first of all, the Olympic Games are a project of a completely different level and different scale. Yes, right now we are capable to host the World Fencing Championships at the Tennis Academy or to install a pool at the football stadium. But it will not work this way at the Olympics. The Olympic programme is huge; it has 27 sports and there are special requirements to facilities’ seating capacity and provision of broadcasting. Surely Kazan has a perfect infrastructure, the Athletes’ Village, but to host the Olympic Games we need to increase both the quality and quantity of our venues and facilities.

 Secondly, the Olympic Games are a mega project that entails making decisions at the highest level. Our initiative only is not enough, there should also be the willingness of the country’s leadership. A whole bunch of circumstances should come around for such a scenario to take place. Or as people say, ‘when the stars align’ (smiles). But to be honest, there are a number of sports projects today that we can implement at lower costs. We need to think about them in a long run. But number one task right now is to host the FINA World Championships.

– By the way, all latest major tournaments have ended with the triumph of the Russian national team. This was the case at the Universiade, then at the Olympics and now at the European Games that have recently concluded in Baku. What are your expectations of the upcoming World Aquatics Championships where the host nation will have to face serious competitors?

– I have the most optimistic expectations of the upcoming World Championships. I’m confident that Team Russia will fight for medals in all events it will compete. I don’t want to make predictions but I’m confident that we will be proud of our team and our athletes will show good results. I think that our compatriots who will come to Kazan to support the host team will experience both joy of being part of an event and the thrill of victory.   

Vsevolod Dvorkin, Press Office of Organising Committee for 16th FINA World Championships