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December 28, 2010
Erzurum part of big sports picture for Turkey

The town of Erzurum illuminates the mountainous countryside in Northeastern Turkey, which will be the host of the 25th FISU Winter Universiade January 27 to February 6, 2011 Photo/Syd Brown
by Syd Brown & Kelly Lapointe, Sports Media Canada
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ERZURUM, December 29, 2010 – Turkey is prepared for the global stage once more when a record 58 countries and more than 3,000 participants descend on Erzurum for the XXV FISU Winter Universiade.

These Games (from January 27 to February 6) are the latest part of the country’s aggressive and forward-thinking approach to be a land for all sports in all seasons. Turkey successfully staged the 2010 FIBA World Basketball Championship and narrowly missed in its bid for FIFA’s Euro 2016. It’s no secret officials have their sights set on one day hosting the Olympics.

Right now, though, organizers hope these FISU Games will help grow their own winter sports programs and attract visitors to this picturesque setting. Twenty-one Turkish athletes represented their country in the 2009 Winter Universiade in Harbin, China and the Erzurum Games will see that number grow, especially as the host country will ice a hockey team.

The largest city in Eastern Anatolia and its FISU Universiade sites were recently inspected by an AIPS delegation of sports journalists from around the world on an invitation from the Erzurum 2011 Organising Committee.

The rigorous four-day tour included visits to all 10 winter sports facilities. Events will take place in alpine skiing cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, biathlon, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, short-track speed skating, ice hockey, figure skating and curling.

“This area has the capacity to do everything, it just hasn’t had the opportunity,” said tour committee member Murat Agca.

Huge support from the Turkish government has now created that chance according to Yunus Akgul, Turkey’s General Director of Youth and Sports.

“The only problem that we had is to find the sportsmen that are going to compete in the arena,” he said knowing this venture is certain to inspire Turkish athletes.

Muhtar Kurt, Chair of the Technical Committee for Erzurum 2011 and member of the executive board of the Turkish Confederation, is hoping the Games will also boost the area’s tourism.

“We have to follow sports with tourism it’s not easy but coming soon this will be an attraction point also for tourists,” he said. “New country, new culture, it’s really an attracting point, new mountains. And also after it will be good quality for the tracks because there are mountains, there is artificial snow and there are lifts. Erzurum goes back hundreds of years; the history is very old, you can see old places, castles, and a different type of food, those are attractive points.”

The tours of the skiing facilities were somewhat marred by the lack of snow in the area. According to Agca, this mountain-engulfed city has more than two meters of snow said in normal circumstances.''If it doesn’t snow in the early days of October, it means it will be a drought time,” he said. Snow making machines are hard at work and the majority of the Turks are confident that this next month will bear snow.

The indoor facilities have already hosted some competition. The AIPS press delegation was pleased to watch a hockey game between two Turkish hockey teams in the 3,000-seat arena.

Judging by the views and culture the press committee was exposed to, attracting tourists won’t be very difficult once these Games conclude. The athletes and the media here for the Games should be pleased with the facilities and working conditions.

Below: A colourful dance troupe puts on a small-scale preview of the opening ceremonies at the ski jumping towers. Photo/ Kelly Lapointe

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