100 Days To Go To Minsk 2019

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Tourism

Tourism

Minsk 2019 is expecting to attract 70,000 tourists to Belarus for the second European Games.

Visitors to the Minsk 2019 European Games can enjoy a visa-free period from June 10 till July 10 with their ticket.

This applies through any border checkpoint of Belarus and it is hoped it will encourage greater tourism in the country.

Citizens of 98 countries can stay in Belarus without a visa during the indicated period, including arriving and departure days.

"Thanks to the European Games, we have a unique chance to show Belarus, tell its interesting history to the whole Europe," Minsk 2019 chief executive Anatoly Kotov said in December 2018.

"At least 50 European countries will follow the event.

"We plan to broadcast the Games in 160 countries.

"This will help attract tourists to Belarus for many years to come.

"As a rule, following any mass events, the number of foreigners eager to see the country increases significantly."

Minsk 2019 is expecting to attract 70,000 tourists to Belarus for the second European Games ©Minsk 2019
Minsk 2019 is expecting to attract 70,000 tourists to Belarus for the second European Games ©Minsk 2019

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has compared the European Games to the "positive impact" the 2018 FIFA World Cup has had on Russia and believes the country will also benefit from being a host.

Vladislav Shchepov, chairperson of the House of Representatives' Standing Commission on Economic Policy, has also said the Games would have a positive impact on the tourism sector.

His view was backed by Valery Borodenya, a member of the House of Representatives’ Standing Commission on Budget and Finance, who claimed the event would have a similar impact to the 2014 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships, which had a positive impact on visitors to the country.

Tourist Guide

Centrekurort

Centrekurort, the largest state operator in Belarus’ tourism market, is offering travel packages, sightseeing tours and accommodation and transfer services for people visiting Minsk for the 2019 European Games.

Both individual tourists and organised groups of fans can use its services, which includes the online portal VETLIVA.

Centrekurort is keen to point out that there is more to Belarus than just the European Games, describing the country as having its own unique and inimitable flavour.

VS Global Travel Company

VS Global Travel Company, whose website can be viewed here, is also offering a wide choice of tour and dates to meet the preferences of those looking to go on vacation in Belarus.

Belarus’ wealth of attractions and architecture can be enjoyed on numerous guided tours offered by private guides and tour operators.


Visa Free

Visitors to the Minsk 2019 European Games can enjoy a visa-free period from June 10 till July 10 with their ticket.

This applies through any border checkpoint of Belarus.

Citizens of 98 countries can stay in Belarus without a visa during the indicated period, including arriving and departure days.

A visa-free traveller is required to have:

  • A ticket for a sport event or the Opening or Closing Ceremony
  • A valid passport
  • Medical insurance, which can be purchased on site, valid for the period of the visit
  • At least BYN50 (£18/$23/€20) per day of stay

The visa system will be similar to the one used in Belarus during the 2014 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships.

A significant number of overseas sports fans are expected to attend Minsk 2019 via Russia.

Belarus and Russia recently signed an intergovernmental agreement under which the latter will provide visa-free travel in its territory for foreign nationals arriving for the European Games.

The two countries took into account the experience of cooperation gained during the FIFA World Cup in Russia as they prepared the agreement on mutual visa recognition.


Getting to Minsk

By car

Car hire is available in the arrivals hall of Minsk National Airport, which is approximately 30 kilometres outside the city centre. 

A taxi journey into the city centre costs around €25 (£22/$28). 

Belarus can be travelled to by car from Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

There are numerous Belarus border crossings and a large road network running across the country.

An international licence is needed to drive in Belarus.

Traffic runs on the right side of the road and the motorway speed limit is 110 kilometres per hour.

Road signs are written in Cyrillic script, although those at major junctions are also written in Latin alphabet.

Not many foreign travel insurance policies are accepted in Belarus.

Insurance can be bought at the border with charges starting at €5 (£4.40/$5.70) for 15 days.

Since August 1, 2013, Belarus has had an electronic toll collection system, known as BelToll, for the passage along motorways.

Belarus can be travelled to by car from Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States ©Getty Images
Belarus can be travelled to by car from Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States ©Getty Images

By train

Belarus has excellent international rail links. 

A train can be taken to Minsk from almost every major city in Europe and the CIS.

The capital city's new central railway station is one of the biggest in Europe. 

It is open 24 hours a day and offers a wide range of facilities, including restaurants, bars, shops, a pharmacy, lockers and a games room.

Minsk's new central railway station is one of the biggest in Europe ©Getty Images
Minsk's new central railway station is one of the biggest in Europe ©Getty Images

By plane

Most travellers to Belarus arrive by plane. 

Minsk National Airport has a lot of facilities including banks, restaurants and shops.

The national airline of Belarus is Belavia.

It operates daily flights to many destinations in Europe and around the world, including Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Astana, Barcelona, Berlin, Kiev, London, Moscow, Paris, Riga, Rome, Tbilisi, Tel Aviv, Vienna, Warsaw etc.

Among the major airlines that fly to Minsk are Russia's Aeroflot, Germany's Lufthansa, Аustrian Airlines, Polish Airlines, Latvia's airBaltic, the United Arab Emirates' Etihad Airways and, since May 2015, Air China.

Minsk National Airport is approximately 30 minutes outside the city centre ©Getty Images
Minsk National Airport is approximately 30 minutes outside the city centre ©Getty Images



Belarus

Belarus

Belarus’ official name is the Republic of Belarus and has a total area of 207,600 kilometres squared.

The country’s two official languages are Belarusian and Russian and the official currency is Belarusian Rouble (BYN).

Belarus has a population of 9.5 million people with 78 per cent of those living in cities.

Minsk has a population of 1.98 million people, while Gomel has 536,000, Mogilev has 381,000, Vitebsk has 378,000, Grodno has 371,000 and Brest has 348,000.

According to the 2009 Census, people of 140 nationalities live in Belarus.

Belarusians make up 83.7 per cent of the ethnic structure of Belarus with Russians accounting for 8.3 per cent, Polish for 3.1 per cent and Ukrainians for 1.7 per cent.

Other nationalities account for the remaining 3.2 per cent.

Belarus has a population of 9.5 million people ©Minsk 2019
Belarus has a population of 9.5 million people ©Minsk 2019

Nature

Belarus is a land of pristine nature with natural habitats and ecosystems occupying 55 per cent of the Belarusian territory.

There are more then 20,000 rivers and 10,000 lakes in Belarus.

Forty-two per cent of the country’s territory is covered by forest, while six per cent of the land is swamps and water bodies – Belarusian bog complexes are called the “lungs of Europe” - and 8.7 per cent is occupied by national parks and reserves.

Bison, the heaviest and largest terrestrial mammal in Europe, lives in Belarus.

Economy

Interesting facts

  • The largest dump truck in the world is produced in Belarus with a capacity of 450 tonnes.
  • State-owned fertiliser group Belaruskali accounts for 16 per cent of the world’s production of potash, an alkaline potassium compound.
  • Every 10th wheel tractor in the world is a Belarus tractor
  • Belarus is among the world’s 15 leading exporters of dairy products
  • Belarus ranks third in the world in terms of gross flax fibre collection
  • Online game World of Tanks was developed by Game Stream, which is located in Minsk and is one of the main development centres of Belarusian company Wargaming

Minsk

Minsk

Despite having a "dreary" reputation, Minsk is widely considered as being a progressive, modern and clean city.

Once completely re-modelled to the tastes of former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin, it is now home to fashionable cafes, magnificent restaurants and crowded nightclubs, as well as sushi bars and art galleries.

It was re-built from the ruins after the Great Patriotic War - a term used in Russia and other former republics of the Soviet Union to describe the conflict fought during the period from June 22, 1941 to May 9, 1945 - but this did not weaken its power and influence.

Among the main sights in Minsk is the Holy Spirit Cathedral, which was built in 1642 and is the central cathedral of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.

Its architecture is an example of the Baroque, a highly ornate and often extravagant style.

The Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and the Cathedral of Saint Virgin Mary also attract plenty of interest.

Minsk is widely considered as being a progressive, modern and clean city ©Minsk 2019
Minsk is widely considered as being a progressive, modern and clean city ©Minsk 2019

Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul 

The construction of the Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul began in 1611 on the left bank of Nemiga River and was completed by 1613.

In the same year, the male orthodox monastery started working and an orthodox school was opened in 1617.

After the Second Partition of Poland, the monastery was dissolved.

In 1795, the renovated church became Minsk Cathedral named after the Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

The Cathedral underwent reconstruction in 1870 and 1871.

After the Second World War, the building was divided into sections and four floors, and adapted for housing.

It was later used as an archive.

In 1991, the building was returned to the church.

The construction of the Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul began in 1611 and was completed by 1613 ©Minsk 2019
The construction of the Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul began in 1611 and was completed by 1613 ©Minsk 2019

Cathedral of Saint Virgin Mary

On the west side of Freedom Square, there is the church in the style of Vilnius Baroque that is adorned with two towers.

It is the former main building of the Jesuit College that is now the Cathedral of Saint Virgin Mary.

Its construction began in 1700.

A decade later, the cathedral was already consecrated, and by 1749 the grounds of the Jesuit College had fully taken shape.

In the years that passed, it has seen a great deal, including the re-design of the second half of the 19th century when the belfry was turned into a fire tower, and the reconstruction of the mid-20th century when the cathedral was rebuilt as a sports society and a dwelling house was constructed on the site of the former Jesuit College.

In 1993, the building was given back to the Roman Catholics and now holds religious services.

The Cathedral of Saint Virgin Mary has undergone a lot of changes over the years ©Minsk 2019
The Cathedral of Saint Virgin Mary has undergone a lot of changes over the years ©Minsk 2019

Independence Avenue

The main street of Minsk is Independence Avenue, where visitors can enjoy "all the splendour and pompousness of the Soviet monumental classicism or the Stalinist Empire style".

This is a single ensemble of residential and administrative buildings of ideal proportions and numerous decorative components, which became the face of Minsk restored after the war.

Independence Avenue runs from the southwest to the northeast and includes Independence Square, October Square, Victory Square, Yakub Kolas Square and Kalinin Square.

Every 2 to 2.5 kilometres, it runs into a square with each being smaller than the previous one.

Independence Avenue is the main street of Minsk ©Minsk 2019
Independence Avenue is the main street of Minsk ©Minsk 2019

Independence Square

Independence Square is one of the main administrative hubs of Belarus.

It is there that Government House, home to the Council of Ministers and the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus, can be found.

Construction of Government House started in the 1930s and it was the first building to emerge in the future Independence Square.  

Previously called Lenin Square, Independence Square still has a monument dedicated to Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in front of Government House.

It was given its new name in 1991, following the acquisition of sovereignty by Belarus.

To the right of Government House, there are the surviving buildings of the early 20th century, including the Church of Saints Simon and Helena.

Independence Square is one of the main administrative hubs of Belarus ©Minsk 2019
Independence Square is one of the main administrative hubs of Belarus ©Minsk 2019

Other attractions

Visitors to Minsk are also likely to find pleasure in checking out the National Library of Belarus and Troitskoye Predmestie, which translates as Trinity Suburb and is an old picturesque part of the city with neatly coloured 19th-century houses located on the bank of the Svisloch River.

In the vicinity of Trinity Suburb, there is a monument erected on what is known as the Island of Tears.

An icon on a foundation stone located next to a bridge marks the birth of the monument.

It belongs to the chapel where the names of all Belarusian soldiers who died in Afghanistan are carved on the walls.

In the vicinity of Trinity Suburb, there is a monument erected on what is known as the Island of Tears ©Minsk 2019
In the vicinity of Trinity Suburb, there is a monument erected on what is known as the Island of Tears ©Minsk 2019

Get Tickets

Tickets for the Minsk 2019 European Games went on sale on December 1, 2018.

They are available to buy from all countries on the website of the event's official ticket operator Tiketpro.

Tickets went on sale in Russia on December 15, through the official ticket agent Ponominalu.

Around 381,000 tickets were made available initially, but this could be increased to 535,000 depending on demand.

The cheapest ticket will be priced at BYN5 (£1.77/$2.32/€2.03) for a number of sports, while the most expensive costs BYN50 (£18/$23/€20)

Tickets for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies are also available, with the additional promise that spectators at these events will become participants in an addition element that will not be shown on television.

The cheapest option for the Opening Ceremony is priced at BYN150 (£53/$70/€61).

The Closing Ceremony is slightly less expensive at BYN70 (£25/$32/€28).

Tickets went on sale in Ticketpro offices on December 19.

Offline sales begun at Ticketpro’s central office at the Prospekt Masherova building in Minsk. 

The first buyer of a paper ticket was Minsk 2019 mascot Lesik, the baby fox.

"One of the main things in the preparations of the ticket program of the second European Games is protection against forgery," Maksim Koshkalda, head of the marketing and advertising department at the Minsk European Games Organising Committee, said.

"Every ticket, both electronic and paper, will be protected by a unique barcode.

"Additional security elements will be used in the manufacture of paper versions - 3D-hologram, the application of special UV-ink and others."



Torch Relay

Torch LightingWeek OneWeek Two


The final countdown to the second European Games in Minsk will be signalled by a Torch Relay known as the ‘"Flame of Peace". The lighting ceremony will be held on May 3 in Rome, the host city of the headquarters of the European Olympic Committees.

Appropriately, this will take place at the Ara Pacis, an altar of peace.

The flame will also visit Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland before arriving in Belarus. A 50-day odyssey around the nation will end with the arrival of the flame at the Opening Ceremony in Minsk on June 21.

A flame with Olympic pedigree has burned in Belarus before. Back in 1980 when Moscow hosted the Olympic Games, Minsk was among the cities chosen to stage group matches in the football tournament.

When the flame arrived in Moscow before the Olympic Opening Ceremony, messengers from the other hosting cities including Minsk were waiting to receive it. They were given a ceremonial escort to the the railway station in Moscow. The flame was taken by special train to Minsk. It burned in a special cauldron built for the Games.

Nor is this the first time that a flame Relay will begin in the eternal city of Rome. Back in 1956, the flame for the Olympic Winter Games of Cortina d’Ampezzo was kindled at the capital. Its departure was accompanied by a fanfare, a symbolic release of doves and a blessing from the Vicar General. 

Olympic discus champion Adolfo Consolini began the Relay by running across the Piazza Campidoglio before an extended Relay took the flame to the mountains.

The Olympic flame is now so well established that organisers of Regional Games have taken great trouble to ensure that any Torch Relays are distinct and original.

In 1951, organisers of the first Asian Games enthusiastically adopted a flame as their symbol.

In the same year Greek IOC member Ioannis Ketseas accompanied a flame lit on the Acropolis to the inaugural Pan American Games in Buenos Aires. Some in the Olympic Movement threw up their hands in horror. Ketseas had to explain himself at the IOC Session in Vienna. At the time, they were very concerned about protecting the symbolism of the Olympic Movement.

Minsk 2019 will follow Baku 2015 in holding a Torch Relay for the European Games ©Getty Images
Minsk 2019 will follow Baku 2015 in holding a Torch Relay for the European Games ©Getty Images

In their bulletin, the IOC included a statement. "It is to be desired that in the future, to preserve the prestige of the Olympic Games, that the right to carry it be reserved solely and unconditionally for the celebration of the Olympic Games".

This was interpreted by regional Games as a ban on Torch Relays but within a few years, the position had softened.

By 1958 the Japanese welcomed an Asian Games flame to Tokyo. This had been kindled in the preceding host city of Manila. Eventually organisers decided that the Asian Games flame should begin from Delhi in tribute to the first host city.

Much of what will happen on the European Games Torch Relay this summer is still shrouded in secrecy, though Minsk 2019 ceremonies chief Sergei Khomich has revealed that many of those chosen to carry the flame will do so in familiar surroundings.

"We tried to incorporate the native land of famous Torchbearers into the itinerary so that they will have an opportunity to visit the places where they were born and meet their compatriots’," he said.

These are still relatively new Games, and so host cities have a great opportunity to innovate. Four years ago, organisers of Baku took advantage of a blank canvas and came up with an original approach to their Relay.

This began with an evening ceremony at the 18th century Temple of Fire at Ateshgah.

In the words of the organisers the flame was "captured from the earth".

President Ilham Aliev himself dipped the ceremonial Torch into a burning kiln within the temple to begin the journey.

Baku came up with an original approach to their Torch Relay ©Getty Images
Baku came up with an original approach to their Torch Relay ©Getty Images

The Torch was then carried away into the night by Rafiga Shabanova, a distinguished local sportswoman. The first of 1,000 Torchbearers, she won Olympic handball gold at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

It journeyed for 47 days by land, by runner and horseback, across water, by helicopter, funicular railway and abseilers. It also travelled on the Baku metro.

Then the "first flame" of the European Games arrived at the stadium itself. It was carried by Paralympic judo champion Ilham Zakiyev, accompanied by Said Guliyev, taekwondo gold medallist at the 2014 Youth Olympics.

Unusually it made its appearance at the start of the Opening Ceremony and the reason was soon clear.

On a stage built to represent the volcanic landscapes of Azerbaijan as "the land of fire", Guliev moved a stone to reveal a pit in the earth. As the flame was lit underground, and his Torch was extinguished, a trail of underground lava across the stage was revealed. This "new energy under the ground" was to power the rest of the ceremony.

Finally as the evening came to a close, two performers representing Leili and Majnun, star crossed lovers in folklore, reappeared on stage and discovered a burning rockTheir coming together was an expression of "humankind's burning desire to connect".

As a black mirror disc rose above the stadium, the couple threw the burning rock towards it.

As the disc ignited, it represented the cosmic coming together of earth, sun and moon in a "Caspian eclipse".

It was an original and spectacular cauldron which was intended as a ‘symbol of unity and truce.’

It also set down a challenge for Minsk to emulate with their flame this summer.


Bright Year, Bright You

The Minsk European Games Organising Committee (MEGOC) unveiled its "Bright Team" project, which has the aim of engaging the public with the event, in August 2018.

In particular, the scheme has the goal of involving more people in the 15 sports on the programme.

Bright Team began its work with a beach soccer tournament in the Belarus capital.

A MEGOC Bright Team side made up of applicants for volunteer roles were among teams to take part at the National Beach Soccer Stadium, which has been specially built inside two months for the Games.

Bright Team has taken its name from the official Minsk 2019 motto "Bright Year, Bright You".

This in turn has been based on the letters BY, the first two letters, phonetically, that make up the word Belarus and also the internet country code domain for the nation.

Bright Team has taken its name from the official Minsk 2019 motto
Bright Team has taken its name from the official Minsk 2019 motto "Bright Year, Bright You" ©Minsk 2019

"Bright Team" events have also been held in other sports, including judo and 3x3 basketball.

The judo event saw participants put through their paces by Belarus judoka Marina Slutskaya, a former European champion.

Minsk 2019 chief executive Anatoly Kotov and marketing and advertising head Maksim Koshkalda were among those to take part.

They were joined by stars including blogger and television presenter Eugene Perlin, blogger Anna Bond and singers Anna Sharkunova and Dyadya Vanya.

Miss Belarus Maria Vasilevich was another to take to the tatami.

In September 2018, a Belarus media personalities side won a 3x3 basketball tournament held as part of the "Bright Team" initiative.

Eight teams took part in all at the Palova Arena, which will host 3x3 basketball during Minsk 2019.

Winning side Stolichnue beat Silver Screen, the official media partner of Minsk 2019, 9-8 in the final after knocking out a MEGOC outfit in the last four.

A media personalities side won a 3x3 basketball tournament held as part of Minsk 2019's
A media personalities side won a 3x3 basketball tournament held as part of Minsk 2019's "Bright Team" initiative ©Minsk 2019

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