Russia is a country on the move in the sports industry, and the whole sporting world is about to find out about it. In the second decade of the 21st century, the country is finally reaching its potential as a destination for major sporting events, with such ambitions translating to enhanced opportunities for sports industry workers. The 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which will take place in Sochi, and the 2018 Fifa World Cup across the country are understandably monopolising column inches of press coverage, while next year Moscow will stage the World Athletics Championships and the picturesque city of St. Petersburg will host the influential SportAccord Convention. However, it is the city of Kazan, the self-proclaimed Russian ‘capital of sport’, which will arguably become the epicenter of the country’s sporting decade.
'Capital of sport'
Not only will Kazan stage games during the 2018 World Cup, but it will also host the 2013 Universiade, a huge multi-sport event that is organised for top-level sportspeople from universities across the world and will kick-off Russia’s schedule of major competitions over the coming years. Two years’ later, Kazan, which is a one-hour flight from Moscow, will host the 2015 FINA World Aquatics Championships. Additionally, the city will also play a high-profile role in the build-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics by hosting the pre-Games torch relay for the New Year’s Eve celebrations next year.
According to Vladimir Leonov, the director general of the 2013 Universiade, the plethora of major events in Russia has opened up new sports industry recruitment opportunities for foreigners, as well as Russians. “In the run-up to the Universiade there has been reliance upon international experience in the management of sporting events and previous Universiades,” Leonov toldGlobalSportsJobs. “There are World University Games organisers – to be precise, people who were involved in staging the Summer Universiade in 2009 in Belgrade – who hold senior management positions in the Kazan 2013 executive directorate. Members of the Kazan 2013 team have also been to the Summer and Winter Universiades in Belgrade, Harbin, Erzurum, Shenzhen and the Olympic Games in Beijing and London. International consultants with vast sport event management experience are frequent guests in Kazan and we always defer to their opinions.”
The need for personnel who have ‘been there and done it’ has been pressing. With Russia set to come under the sporting spotlight like never before over the coming years, a shortfall of expertise could be embarrassing. However, from such a challenge has emerged an opportunity to train up a new generation of sports industry recruits who will provide the country with an enviable legacy in the international sports event-hosting sector. “Perhaps the major challenge is that for a long time there has been no experience of managing such a large-scale sporting event as the Universiade in our country; the last event of this scope was held over 30 years ago and it was the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow,” Leonov said.
“Of course it made our work even more complicated, but at the same time it has energised all of those who work hard – both in Kazan and beyond it,” he added. “The task is getting even more challenging as the whole world was impressed with the Summer Universiade that Shenzhen [in China] hosted in 2011. The host city took the World University Games to a qualitatively new technical level. Our task is to make the image of the Universiade even more recognisable worldwide, to upgrade its status and move it a few steps closer to the Olympic level.” Leonov is convinced, though, that Kazan and Russia is up to the task. “The Russian sports industry is experiencing huge changes and is undergoing very rapid development,” he said. “It is creating new jobs and we need a team of professionals in certain trades. In this regard the 2013 Summer Universiade is a strategically important event for our country as the sports industry in Russia now needs people that boast theoretical, as well as practical knowledge of sport event management and the Kazan 2013 executive directorate can be deservedly billed as a breeding ground for professionals on the national scene.”
Perhaps the most visible demonstration of a country’s readiness to host a major event – for the on-the-ground spectators at least, is the actions of the volunteer force. Volunteering for a major event is often the first step many people take on the road to a career in the sports event-hosting industry. At the conclusion of the London 2012 Olympic Games, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge hailed the event’s volunteers as “the much-needed heroes of these Games”. For Leonov, the importance of an effective volunteer program is a priority, and he is keen to underline the fact that developments in this regard have been part of a long-term plan in the republic of Tatarstan, of which Kazan is the capital city.
“The volunteers are actively involved in helping to deliver competitions and cultural events taking place in the capital of Tatarstan,” he said. “In 2010-2011 they assisted in planning and managing over one hundred sporting events in Kazan. In the build-up to the Universiade the Kazan 2013 executive directorate has paid considerable attention to volunteer training. Specialised training that we offered for our volunteer teams turned out to be a successful experience. In 2009, the Kazan 2013 volunteers served as interns at the 25th Summer Universiade in Belgrade (Serbia) and in 2010 they lent a helping hand at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. In 2011, they volunteered during the Winter Universiade in Erzurum (Turkey), the Winter Asian Games in Astana (Kazakhstan) and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Sochi.”
Leonov continued: “In August 2011, the Kazan 2013 volunteers also worked at the 26th Summer Universiade in Shenzhen. Plus, six representatives of Kazan were chosen to travel to London for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as part of the 'golden hundred' of the Sochi 2014 volunteer team. We are sure that thanks to such vast experience our volunteers will do their job well and be able to give a warm welcome to athletes and guests of the competitions.” As Russia prepares for the start of a hectic schedule of international dates, it is clear that experience beyond the borders of the country will prove invaluable for the workforce supporting the delivery of the Universiade and the country’s future mega-events.