BEIJING - The start of the seventh Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan will also mark the beginning of a new sports year.
Hundreds of top athletes from across Asia will participate in this grand event, for which the people of Kazakhstan have high hopes. There is much to be proud of in the organization of the event: including the construction work on 10 unique sports facilities of international standard which have been fully completed, and the approval of an ambitious large-scale Olympic-style torch relay and cultural program. To date, 24 countries have confirmed their participation, but with three months still to go before the start of the games, it is expected that the number of teams participating will exceed that of previous Asian Winter Games.
Participants so far include teams from China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Kuwait, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Jordan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, India, Nepal, Lebanon, Tajikistan, Singapore, Qatar, Uzbekistan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan and the United Arab Emirates. It's worth noting that the earlier winter sports were not as popular in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East due to their locations. The reason for the breakthrough at these coming games has been the decisive role played by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and the creative energy of the organizers of the championship in Almaty and Astana.
It is symbolic that the Asian Games - perhaps the most progressive competition on the planet - is rounding out sport this year and opening a new page in the New Year. There will be less than two months between the Asian Games in Guangzhou and the Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan. The harmonious flow of the Asian Games, from summer to winter, can also be considered a symbol of the long-term friendship between China and Kazakhstan. Sport is another thread linking the two countries. At the same time, it points to the integration process within the Asian community. There is no doubt that sporting success contributes to many successful economic and political partnerships within the region.
The 2011 Games will be Kazakhstan's first effort to organize a sporting event on an international scale. Many individuals and organizations have been involved in the planning, including functionaries, analysts, journalists and, of course, the government of Kazakhstan, which has spared no effort or resources in preparing for the event. Much attention has been given to the athletes who will be competing for medals, whereas previously athletes participating in winter sports have remained in the shadows of summer sports such as boxing, wrestling and cycling.
The government of Kazakhstan has created a unique infrastructure for the games, showing a commitment to the further development of winter sports in the region. Prime Minister Karim Masimov stressed that the hosting of the Asian Winter Games, combined with Kazakhstan's large resources, would enable the nation to become a true sporting power.
Kazakhstan is now ready to receive guests and hold competitions at the highest level. The celebration of the new sports year in the two largest cities of Kazakhstan, which will be attended by the best Asian athletes, will be remembered for a long time.
Participants will witness a grand and enchanting opening ceremony. More importantly, the Winter Games will display the cultural and spiritual riches of Kazakhstan, its natural heritage and hospitality of its multinational the people.