October 18 - Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak has officially opened the second SportAccord World Combat Games here, an event that will see 1,500 athletes from 120 countries compete in 15 sports.
The event, first held in Beijing three years ago, is the first major event to be held under the leadership of Marius Vizer since he succeeded Hein Verbruggen as President of SportAccord, the umbrella organisation for both Olympic and non-Olympic international sports federations.
It is an appropriate event for Vizer, who was elected here in May during the SportAccord International Convention, to begin what is expected to be a revolutionary reign as he is also head of the International Judo Federation, one of the sports which will make up these Games which are due to last until October 26.
Along with boxing, fencing, taekwondo and wrestling, judo is one of five sports which also feature on the Olympic programme but Vizer claimed that the World Combat Games gives all of the disciplines the chance to enjoy some time in the spotlight.
Fencing is one of two new additions to this year's programme, along with savate, a traditional French martial art which uses the hands and feet as weapons combining elements of western boxing with kicking techniques.
"The World Combat Games are the proof that the martial arts and combat sports are one family of sports which supports each other and this event is a great opportunity to show how their values can be transferred to societies," he told insidethegames.
The first of the 136 gold medals were awarded even before the Opening Ceremony, a high-octane, fast-tempo event in an arena built for the 2000 World Ice Hockey Championships and which the highlights included a personal video message from Russian President Vladimir Putin, had taken place.
It went, fittingly, to a Russian, Elena Bondareva, who won gold in the women's under 48 kilogram category in sambo, a Russian martial art and combat sport developed by the Red Army in the 1920s to help develop their hand-to-hand combat abilities.
It was one of four gold medals the host nation won on this opening day, which also included sumo.
Russia will be confident of repeating their performance at Beijing in 2010 when they finished top overall of the medals table with a total of 39 medals, including 18 gold, ahead of China, who won 31, 15 of them gold.
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