For the first time on my international tour to promote our Munich 2018 bid I visit Kazakhstan. Here the 7th Asian Winter Games start today with a breathtaking opening ceremony. I have to admit that I was a bit worried about the freezing temperatures at first but in the roofed and heated state of the art football stadium in Astana I forget about this very fast and after the big sports events in Singapore, Guangzhou and Muscat I witness once again the incredible energy, motivation and seemingly boundless confidence of the sports event organizers in Asia. Here sports is seen as a driving force for the youth and a modern way of building a better future. The opening ceremony is fantastic. With the latest technology and sophisticated choreography, accompanied by stirring music the history of Kazakhstan is shown in atmospheric pictures and films. The more than 30000 people in the sold out venue are in cheerful mood. Unfortunately I will miss this atmospheric crowd visiting the competitions in the next couple days.
Of course I don't miss the opportunity to visit the famous speed skating rink in Almaty during my 3day stay. Back in the 80s, during my active career as figure skater, I used to have a lot of friends among the speed skaters of my sports club in Chemnitz. Back then they often told me: "We will travel to Almaty again for altitude training." It always sounded so exotic. Now, after almost 25 years, I am able to see it with my own eyes. The venue is perfectly situated amongst the mountains and I can imagine how this view could make up for a hard training session.
On the photo you can see 2 mascots: the tiger of the Asian Winter Games and me, the mascot of the Munich 2018 bid :-)