This article was produced in association with Ashgabat 2017: 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games
It’s the question being asked by the sporting world following a successful 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games held in the Turkmenistan capital: what next for Ashgabat?
The planning and preparations began seven years ago to transform the city into one that is capable of hosting the biggest edition of the continental multi-sport event to date.
But while the organisers talked a lot about legacy before and during the Games, Turkmenistan’s destiny as a serious sporting destination lies in the hands of the international and Asian federations. And the early signs are positive.
Stephan Fox is a former world champion in the sport of Muaythai. Today he is the IFMA General Secretary and also the Vice President of GAISF (SportAccord) and the President of AIMS, the 21 recognised sporting federations striving for IOC recognition, in which three of them – Ju-Jitsu, Kickboxing and Sambo – took centre stage at the Games.
1. How did you find Ashgabat 2017?
SF: Speaking from a sport perspective, we only can congratulate Ashgabat and Turkmenistan’s President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, on the visions he has for sport, not only for Turkmenistan but the entire region.
The sports complex is of the highest standard, advanced of time in many ways. The Opening Ceremony was spectacular showcasing the cultural and sporting aspects in a thrilling show. Some people might have not been so familiar with the tight security measures that is being implemented here, but I believe that we are living in a time where sport events have also become a target. So, for me the security of the athletes is important. I must say that the workforce is very effective and the volunteers are doing an amazing job. This is something I must congratulate them on. I’m not sure how many volunteers there are, but they are everywhere and are going out of their ways which is very positive and very appreciated by all of us.
2. Did you work closely with the organisers in the run-up, and if so did they implement your advice in the organising of the tournament?
SF: We had a great relationship with the local organisers right from the start. They came to our World Championship in 2015 to have a meeting with our executive and technical committee. We established a close relationship which then continued with our technical delegate and competition manager and the managing team which have paid off in many ways, as all parties only have one goal which is to make this event an unforgettable one for athletes and spectators alike. This has certainly paid off for our sport.
3. How did the Muaythai competition go?
SF: The competition was very good. The field of play is very well organised. The audience are very cheerful and we have the top athletes from Asia competing.
The facilities are also excellent for our team to work. The lounges are also very nicely done, so we are able to take the VIPs for private meetings.
4. How does Ashgabat compare to other sporting cities?
SF: I must say that first of all, as a very, semi-retired athlete, I do like my morning runs and the climate is perfect. The city also offers some very nice restaurants especially in the mountains where I have the pleasure to enjoy Turkmenistan hospitality. In addition, with the new sporting complex and facilities, Ashgabat undoubtedly will become a sporting hub in Central Asia.
5. Would you like to bring a bigger tournament/World Championship here in the future?
SF: Being the chairman of the GAISF Combat Sport commission, I would say that this facility could easily host the World Combat Games with the Martial Arts complex being world class.
This is something which could be a serious consideration for our commission and would bring possibly the 15 world recognised combat sports and martial arts, both Olympic and non-Olympic recognised, to this city. I also had the pleasure of watching the combat competition with amazing talents here from the hosting country.