Vladimir Leonov: Kazan, once the exotic home of the Tatars, now home to Universiade 2013, the planet's biggest sport event after London 2012
Friday, 06 July 2012
Kazan, with a population of 1.2 million, is the traditional home of the famous Tatars. Located on the beautiful Volga River, Kazan is the capital city of our dynamic Russian region the Republic of Tatarstan, which around four million call home.
Recently, the city was officially named the 'Sports Capital' of Russia. This is thanks to all of our Russian national championship winning teams in football, ice hockey, basketball and volleyball. Kazan is also known, after Moscow and St Petersburg, as the "Third Cpital" of our vast country.
Kazan is booming. Over the last three years, in anticipation of our Universiade and as a host city for the FIFA World Cup in 2018, we have constructed 36 new stadiums along with a Universiade Village and campus for 13,000 people. There will be a new 45,000-seat FIFA approved football stadium and a total of 64 city venues, featuring a new metro, airport, express rail-link to the centre, as well new hotels and roads. And everything is ahead of schedule.
Forbes and the World Bank have recently ranked Kazan as the best place to do business in Russia. But our human story is even better: Kazan with a 50:50 mix Orthodox Christians and Muslims is one of the most successfully integrated cites in the world, and is held up as a model of religious tolerance for the rest of the world to emulate.
Russian is our official language, but Tatar is also taught. Interestingly though, English is bubbling up everywhere – 40 per cent of Kazan's population is under 30, with our consolidated university system offering learning opportunities to 210,000 students.
By plane, Kazan is just one hour away from Moscow and there are 12 flights a day. There are also international connections via Lufthansa, Turkish Air and Fly Dubai.
Kazan 2013 is a huge international competitive event – second only to the London 2012 Olympics! It will also be the largest Universiade in history with 27 summer sporting events (as opposed to the traditional 13) including football, athletics, field hockey, shooting and even rugby sevens
Importantly, Kazan 2013 is a major national Russian project promoting healthy living and life style choices. It is one of the five main official events staged in Russia over the next few years, including this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Summit, the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the Kazan 2015 World Aquatic Championships and, of course, the aforementioned World Cup.
Our main sponsors include Coca-Cola, Hyundai, PwC, McDonald's, MegaFon, Ak Bars Bank and Aeroflot – and we are proud they share our vision for Russia's bright future.
I feel so fortunate to help spread the message that Russia is an honoured sports citizen of the world and excited to host a sports mega-event. Kazan cannot wait for the day, just 365 from now, when so many world-class athletes, delegations and spectators will come to experience the hospitality and energy of my home town, our region and our fast growing country.
Vladimir Leonov is the director general of Kazan 2013.