Turkmenistan is hoping that its successful hosting of the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games will be the catalyst to attract other big sporting events to the country.
Over 12 days of exhilarating sport, the country’s capital city Ashgabat delivered one of the most spectacular multi-sport events in living memory.
The Olympic Council of Asia was quick to declare the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games as an overwhelming success as the sporting world awaits with bated breath to hear what’s next from the ambitious country.
But the organisers can reflect on an excellent introduction into the competitive industry of sports hosting.
As soon as it was awarded the Games in 2010, Ashgabat launched an infrastructure development programme to turn the city into a formidable sporting destination.
Such was the pace of progress, all venues were finished and tested well ahead of time.
At the heart of the development is the Ashgabat Olympic Complex where 13 of the 15 competition venues were built. Its centerpiece is the 45,000-seater Olympic Stadium which housed the spectacular Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
The 6,000 athletes and officials, who were housed in the newly constructed Athletes Village situated across the road from the Complex, were connected to the venues by a 5.1km monorail capable of transporting 75 passengers at a time in comfort.
It all worked seamlessly well with the Games providing one of the most compact and centralised facilities for an event of this size and stature.
The host nation didn’t disappoint its expectant nation either. With the event programme front loaded with Wrestling events, Turkmenistan raced into an unassailable lead and continued to add medals throughout all disciplines to top the table.
They went on to win a huge 89 gold medals, 70 silver and 86 bronze medals for a grand total of 245 medals. China followed with Iran taking third spot.
The Games most successful athlete was Turkmenistan’s Seydi Batyrow who took an incredible six gold medals from the six events he entered to become an immediate national hero.
Another highlight was a new Weightlifting world record set by Iran’s Moradi Sohrab in the men’s 94kg.
With the Games now over following a stunning Closing Ceremony that featured a host of international talent, the organisers can reflect on a truly memorable celebration.
Dayanch Gulgeldiyev, Chairman of the Executive Committee, said:
I am humbled by what has been achieved by this great nation and it is all thanks to the visionary leadership of our Esteemed President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.
Ashgabat 2017 was an historic moment for Turkmenistan, and all Turkmen can feel a sense of national pride in what we have accomplished together. I thank each and every one of those who have played a part in this success story. But this is just the start as I am sure we can expect more big sporting events to come here in the future.
But the big question will be what’s next for Turkmenistan?
The International Federations present will certainly have been impressed by both the venues and the incredible warmth shown to the sporting community by the host nation. It can only bode well for a potential return by many of them, organisers said.
One common theme running throughout the 12 days of sport was the long-term benefits that the country will enjoy from hosting this event.
As well as the possibility of welcoming future big events, the organisers have been stressing the availability of these new world-class facilities to the wider Turkmen public.
The country has an unquenchable thirst for sport and has striven to use the Games as a catalyst for promoting the values of sport into the everyday lives of all its citizens.
Over 8,000 mostly students signed up for the First Stars volunteer programme which saw them all receive top class training from international facilitators. This in itself will provide immeasurable benefits as they embark on their professional paths over the coming years.
So, with an impressive haul of medals from Ashgabat 2017 and crowds flocking to watch in their thousands, you can understand why there is an air of optimism that more great sporting things are to come, organisers believe.
Images: The Closing Ceremony; Jujitsu competitors in action.