A Sporting Renaissance in Russia – Richard Breslin & Damon Lavelle

Next month the Russian Federation hosts the Universiade Games in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. It’s the first of a dazzling array of global sporting events that Russia has secured, opening the eyes of the sporting world to the new ambitions of Russia. Under the stewardship of the three times president Vladimir Putin, Russia has had a very successful decade in winning major events, and looks set to win even more. My colleague Damon Lavelle spends a large part of his year in Russia and he takes up the story.

This opening ceremony of the Universiade games is on the 6th July, followed closely this summer by the international Rugby Sevens tournament hosted by Moscow and the IAAF World Athletics championships meet for 2013. Next year will be even busier with the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Kazan will be centre stage again in 2015, hosting the 2015 FINA World Aquatics Championships and then there’s the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

Populous has been privileged to be associated with all of these events. We designed the central stadium for Kazan which will become the home of the football team Rubin Kazan, after the Universiade Games as well as a designated venue for the FIFA World cup 2018. We’ve helped assess the future of the Luzhniki stadium complex in Moscow which will host the Rugby Sevens and we’ve had a long standing involvement with the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Sochi won the bid due to many factors, from the strong support of President Putin to the exciting opportunity it has provided to stage such an event in a sub-tropical resort city on the south Black sea coast – with Europe’s highest mountain in the hinterland beyond.

Populous proposed a compact masterplan with two centres; the Mountain Cluster, and the Coastal Cluster. We designed the Fisht Stadium, on the coast, which will be the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics. After the games, as in Kazan, the Fisht Stadium will become the home of a major football club and a designated venue for the Soccer in 2018.

The FIFA World Cup 2018 has stimulated the need to improve the sporting infrastructure of many of Russia’s designated host cities. A number have had to consider building new stadia and two of these, Saransk and Rostov-On-Don, offer differing perspectives as to what that has entailed. In both cities Populous is the design architect for the stadia and stadia precinct projects.

Saransk, the capital of the Republic of Mordovia, is a relatively small city, but distinguished by the recent international sporting successes of several of its home grown athletes. It’s no exaggeration to say that from the Governor to the man-in- the- street, the people of Saransk are sports mad, and they combine this with a justified reputation for generous hospitality. The World Cup will undoubtedly put Saransk on the map, and major infrastructure projects associated with the event will bring benefits to the city and the region for many years to come.

The same is true of its somewhat larger and brasher southern neighbour, the city of Rostov-on Don. Rostov has had a very colourful recent history since the decline of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian federation in the early 1990’s. Renowned for the beauty of its landscape around the mighty river Don, and for its beautiful people (descendants of the brave Cossacks), the self-confidence of Rostov is palpable and refreshing. Populous has embraced this in our design for the new football stadium which will begin construction this summer.

The traditional sport of Ice Hockey, which continues to be important to Russia because of its international success, is gaining additional traction with the planning of several new arena facilities designed for both hockey and to capture the revenues from a growing appetite for international entertainment events. One of these is the largest arena in Europe, part of the huge entertainment complex Galactica Park, situated within the Moscow ring road. Populous is the architect and AEG the operator with work expected to start on site this year. Galactica and other entertainment complexes like it all over the country will undoubtedly further consolidate the ability of the Russian Federation to host more international sporting events in even more world class facilities in the future.

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