Sapar Isakov: The Second World Nomad Games Open a New Page in the History of Modern Kyrgyzstan
Sapar Isakov: The Second World Nomad Games Open a New Page in the History of Modern Kyrgyzstan
Today’s guest is one of the head organizers and initiators of the upcoming World Nomad Games. Despite his young age, he has rapidly climbed the career ladder thanks to his perseverance, work ethic (colleagues say that he can hold 10 meetings a day, working for 14-16 hours), and his communication and diplomacy skills. The youth of Kyrgyzstan try to equal him, and many want to recreate his path, dedicating their work to their homeland and nation. We would like to introduce Sapar Isakov, the head of the Department of Foreign Policy, rank of Deputy Director of the Office of the President of the KR.
Mr. Isakov, who came up with the idea of organizing and holding the World Nomad Games? How did this all start?
The idea of holding the World Nomad Games was brought forward by President Atambaev in 2012 as part of the Turkic Council and was supported by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkey. Afterwards we started working hard to turn this idea into a real project for reviving and popularizing the cultural heritage of nomadic peoples, and in 2014, the First World Nomad Games took place, which showed the unity of spirit and the similarity of cultures and traditions of nomadic peoples.
More than 50 countries have confirmed their participation at the Second Games! This figure shows that ethno-games are growing in popularity and have the potential to become a unique and powerful sports movement.
One relevant question is about the financing of the Games. Has taxpayer money been used or have the Games found other sources of financing?
The scale of the previous Games and the number of competitions and participants showed that it was necessary to build a new hippodrome and improve the infrastructure, as well as redoing the road, and this all required significant resources. The lion’s share of this was funded through grants, which were brought in by President Atambaev.
How have business groups reacted to the competition between sponsors?
As of recently, sponsors and partners have contributed two million dollars. This figure is important. I don’t think that in the history of our country there has been so much support for a government project from the private sector. This isn’t only foreign entrepreneurs, but also national companies, media partners, individuals and activists. This shows that our people care about the image of their country, for the strengthening of its sporting and tourist potential. You could say that the World Nomad Games has become our shared business, our shared dream that has become reality.
How transparently will this money be used?
All money has been received in non-cash form and has been credited to the National Olympic Committee. This account is audited twice a year by an independent international firm. This means that you can follow where every som from sponsors has been sent. There isn’t a more transparent system.
How much will ticket sales for the Games cover?
Of course there are preliminary costs, and ticket sales for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies can cover part of these costs. Thus, it’s possible to conclude that the general costs will be covered by grant money, sponsors, and ticket sales, and not from the pockets of taxpayers. Another part of the costs have been covered by the sales of souvenirs, which, by the way, are made very well and are affordable.
The most attention among the people has been focused on the remodeling of the Hippodrome. What do you make of this?
The new Hippodrome fills the requirement for holding equestrian competitions at the international level, and features modern equipment from the best global producers, including modern cameras that can show a horse down to the smallest details, thanks to slow-motion and replay modes. This allows us to avoid confrontational moments during competition. Coverage of the Games will be broadcast live over satellite channels. This allows Kyrgyzstan to enter the group of countries that can hold races on an international level. In all, the Hippodrome promises to become a powerful sport and cultural center and tourist place. The French were surprised that the price of this ultra-modern Hippodrome was ten times smaller than that of similar constructions in other countries.
What do you think, will the Hippodrome recoup its costs over time?
Before we decided to build the Hippodrome, we discussed the question of whether or not it would recover its costs. Specialists in this field added everything up and came to the result that this is a very cost-effective project with a good likelihood of covering its costs.
Of course, along with revenue from international competitions, we also considered several other options.
First, concerts could be held in the Hippodrome, seeing as it seats 10 thousand people. I’m sure you would agree that seeing a concert of a famous performer on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul would be a great pleasure.
Second, on the outside of the Hippodrome there will be boutiques and stores for national souvenirs, which will be open all year.
And third, the appropriate ministries and departments have been charged with studying the experience of countries where gambling is banned, but betting at racetracks is allowed. I can’t say that a law on betting would pass, just that that option is being considered. As much as foreign experience shows, betting allows for promotion of horse breeding and the development of equestrian sports.
As is already known, one of the sponsors, Gazprom Asia, is carrying out construction on a large sporting complex, which is supposed to be finished for the beginning of the Nomad Games. Can you tell us more about this complex?
This is an ultra-modern sports and recreation complex, construction of which is already complete. Gazprom Asia has already given it to the government. The scale of this building can be judged by its cost – Gazprom Asia spent 5-6 million dollars building it. Everything was done to the very best in terms of technology. The complex can be used for training sessions for different kinds of sports, international competitions, conferences, and symposiums for up to 600 people. Additionally, there is plenty of office space in the building, which will include the Center of Nomadic Civilization.
As many already know, almost all Olympic Villages fall into ruin after the Games are held. What will be the fate of the Hippodrome and the Sports and Recreation Center? Who will be in charge of them, and who will pay for the upkeep?
I can confirm that they will not fall into ruin. Actually, after the Games these venues won’t lose their vitality and will actually bring in a small profit.
Another pressing question about timeframes – will all the venues be completed before the start of the Games? And importantly, will the road be completed? As far as I understand, there were a lot of problems concerning timeframes? Pictures have appeared on social media that seem to show that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
There are always difficulties. Most importantly, we don’t need to be afraid of them, just ready to overcome them. Concerning the timeframes, I can confidently tell you that the Hippodrome and the road will be ready for the beginning of the Games. Workers are tirelessly working two shifts. We’re working systematically and properly towards our goals.
How are things with the preparation of the international airport in Tamchy?
The international airport in Tamchy is completely ready to welcome guests to the upcoming event. This I’m officially confirming.
How do you envision the Second World Nomad Games?
I see the grand Opening and Closing Ceremonies, plus 26 types of competition, of which most important is not just the competition, but also the size and entertainment.
Let’s get this in order, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies…
I won’t tell you a lot of details. Let’s let it be a nice surprise. I can only say that it’s going to be a great show which was organized with help from companies from St Petersburg, companies that helped with preparation for the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, plus other similar companies. I don’t want to jump too far ahead, but I’ll just say that after the World Games we’ll all be proud of the high level of organization!
In how many countries will the Games be broadcast?
In over 150 countries around the world. It’s enough to say that really authoritative channels, like Euronews, BBC and Al Jazeera will be broadcasting the Games.
Impressive. What sort of cultural events are planned for the upcoming Games?
The cultural program starts September 4 in the picturesque Kyrchyn Gorge, where the ethno-village “Kyrgyz Village” is spread out, which will consist of 9 nomadic camps representing the seven regions of Kyrgyzstan, plus the main cities of Bishkek and Osh. Here guests will be able to see firsthand nomadic culture, and get to know the traditions and customs of the Kyrgyz people. There will also be a folklore festival called “Nomad’s Universe”. Additionally, representatives of many cultures and countries will present their traditional dwellings as yurts, yarangas, tents, teepees, wigwams, and more. All guests are welcome to visit this event, and so special minibuses will serve as shuttles to Kyrchyn during the Games, absolutely free.
What makes the Second Nomad Games different from the First?
Of course, according to scale and grandeur, the Second Nomad Games are significantly bigger than the First. As for competitions, the First Games featured 10 kinds of sports, while this year’s Games feature 26. Plus, the cash prizes for winners have significantly grown. The winners of the highest prizes will receive medals with gold edging in an original design. This already gives a base for the further development of the project into the future International Nomad Games.
One of the main issues at the recent Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro was the question of safety of visitors and athletes, who were victims of theft and hooligans. How is safety being considered at the upcoming WNG? How many police officers will be at the Games?
Unprecedented measures for safety have been taken, and safety and order will be ensured by around 5 thousand police officers. An operating headquarters was created, and ambulances and fire trucks will be available around the clock. Strict measures will be taken for people entering the Hippodrome, and all tickets include a QR code that has been encoded with personal identification information of the ticket holder, and only with these tickets will people be allowed into the Hippodrome. This technology is being used for the first time at a big event in this country. Thus, I’m sure that there is no reason to be worried.
As is already known, the WNG is a tourist project aimed at the development of traditional and national games of nomadic peoples. What are the expectations for the upcoming Games? Any grand event is an excellent means for supporting national enthusiasm and international prestige, and also for creating new economic relations. The World Nomad Games is not only a sporting event, but also a sporting, cultural, and of course, an economic one. What expectations do you have for the upcoming Games?
First, this will contribute to the significant raising of the Kyrgyz Republic’s image in the world arena and the strengthening of the Kyrgyz people.
Second, the Games have developed sporting and tourist infrastructure. I’m sure that holding the Nomad Games has attracted the attention of investors, and new modern hotels, sporting centers and entertainment complexes will appear at Issyk-Kul. This will give an impulse to developing tourism in the region.
Third, the Games have developed the level of sports. Holding this type of sporting event brings interest to sports among the population, increases the level of preparation of athletes, and ensures that experts in the area of sports are busy.
Fourth, people have become more involved in the development of sporting and tourist infrastructure.
Coming up, we’re planning on holding another grand event connected with the world of high tech. Soon you’ll hear more about this straight from the mouths of the heads of the government. Until then, we’ll hope that we’ll remember the World Nomad Games with pride once they’re finished. We don’t get an opportunity like this every day, and Kyrgyzstan has to use it well.