The Darkroom
where dark things happen…

Winter Universiade 2017 Almaty Kazakhstan

The “welcome” board at the lobby of our apartments at the athletes village

our ‘welcome’ packs – some pins, a Coke, some apples and… a christmas tree bauble of all things

posing with the mascot of the games just before the opening ceremony

the first day welcomed us to the Medeo venue with some glorious weather

no doubt whatsoever what this venue was built for

Team Sweden speed skating

On the route between Medeo and the athletes village, we pass the ski jumping hill in the middle of town

The athletes village has a bookstore and entertainment rooms, and you can even play Jenga

Ann-Marie needs some practice at this

Getting ready for the march out

The Swedish team was actually quite big, probably because of the ice hockey team

Almaty Arena can be seen in the background

Everyone sees the big show, but for most of the participants in the opening ceremony, you spend hours in the basement of the stadium with nowhere to sit…

“Schvetsiya”, and there are apples everywhere, even in the little country signs

The volunteers kept us cheered-up, because they were clearly happy to be there and mixing with the athletes, and that enthusiasm rubbed off on us

The show was… epic

Soldiers dressed in gold, dancers and flag-wavers…

fortunately, we didn’t actually have to march a very long way – just the length of the stadium

this was the part where they were advertising Kazakhstan as a place to invest

why have one runner with the torch when you can have 20?

not sure how it happened, but during the opening ceremony I managed to collect the flags of three countries which happened to have the same colours

and during the long plane and bus rides, I knitted a hat for myself

more random sport-related art scattered near the venues

I’m glad that all quests are welcome, and not just those for the Holy Grail, for example…

Not all competition days were equal, and on day 1 conditions were… “challenging”

yes, that’s a snowplough, not a zamboni

The ever-resourceful Japanese coach wields an umbrella while coaching during the warm up

constant cleaning of the ice had to be done, even while the skaters were racing

Traditional costumes for the prizegiving

Similarly to Mongolia, felt products are a big thing here

The athlete’s village is situated around a big U-shaped courtyard, and at the top of the U is the “pyramid” where the dining hall and organising committee offices were.

In the evenings we tried to watch some of the different sports. This is curling, and team GB had a very vocal cheer squad.

We were lucky enough to be treated to a nail-biter between Sweden and Korea, where scores were level for a long time, then with one end remaining Korea took the lead…

It came down to the last Swedish stone, *not* on the hammer and one down. But it was good enough and Sweden stole 2 in the final end to win an improbably victory. They would later go on to win the Bronze medal.

Since Medeo was 40-60 minutes away from the athletes village, we had to be up very early every morning to get on the buses to be there in time for the warm up.

A coaches feet get very cold standing on the ice taking lap times. I wish I had the boot coverings of the Russian coach.

View of Medeo from the cable car.

Just in case you were wondering where things were

Occasionally I’d have a little bit of time to take some pictures.  But not too often, since I was coaching a lot of the time.

Although being a coach did allow me to sometimes take photos from angles where regular photographers couldn’t.

Like from the inside of the track

At some point, Eva lost one of her blade covers.

They were nice enough to provide the coaches with little benches to sit on in the middle.

Me getting a good photo in with the mascot

The standard of competition was high, with several track records being set.

Eva was so sad that on one occasion, in the dining hall, she got up to get some cake but instead returned with a bowl full of cat food and milk

On one of the days, there was some pretty bad fog.

Bad enough that at times you couldn’t see from one end of the rink to the other.

It seems that fog, while inconvenient, doesn’t slow you down because the track record in the men’s 1000m was broken several times

Getting a closer look at these funny guys. It almost looks like they’re designed so that grass can grown on them in the summer months.

Darren plays a game in the entertainment room which involves whacking a circle with a rubber hammer. Good for venting frustration after a race.

The dutch and norwegian girls competed in arcade motorcycle races.

And then as Batman and Superman… which was fun because these machinese were modified so you didn’t need coins – all you had to do when you ‘died’ was press ‘start’.

I took it upon myself to teach the game “Gluck” to the kids I was coaching. They seemed to enjoy it.

By the end of each competition day, Eva was exhausted.

While out exploring the city one afternoon we visited the column of independence, where you could make a wish and place your hand in the handprint on the book.

The bus curtains were for privacy I guess, or maybe they offered the tiniest extra bit of insulation from the cold outside.

Korean zipper decorations.

Team Sweden photo op

The 1000m ladies took place on a slightly snowy day.

Although the snow does add a bit of ‘texture’ to this photo of the Swedish contingent at the speed skating.

Later we visited the national museum, where I learned of the origin of the golden soldiers we had spotted earlier at the opening ceremony.

Unusually for a national museum, the main foyer area was made up of a large market selling crafts. These examples of arabic calligraphy were absolutely beautiful, but sadly too expensive (each one represents 5-8 days’ worth of work!). Coincidentally, our attaché knew Arabic (in addition to English, and Russian) and was able to translate – this particular piece is a verse from the Koran and it is about the devil that sits on your shoulder and tells you to do bad things.

Kazakhs come from a tradition of living as nomads in little huts called Gurs or Yurts which can come apart and fold down neatly to fit in a cart and be moved every 3-4 months (with the seasons). This is a reconstruction of one in the national museum.

Driving around in an official vehicle, getting shown all the sights, after the last day of (speed skating) competition for us.

Apparently there are pretty big Beatles fans here, with a sculpture of them on the hill overlooking the city.

OMG!!! They discovered the other dimensions!!!

It is perhaps a little sad, but there used to be a restaurant in that tower that was open to diners, but due to security concerns, it is no longer open.

The famous Green Market.

Nuts from Smarkand, another city on the silk road

Almaty was a major trading post on the silk road, and so it is quite significant that we managed to visit one of the major markets here to see how things (and what things) were traded for over two thousand years

and on our final night, we went to watch Sweden play Kazakhstan in the ice hockey

Kazakhstan to their credit comfortably outplayed the Swedes. Even though Sweden managed to hold them to 1-0 for most of the game, Kazakhstan eventually ended up with a 4-0 lead by the end of the third period.

Kazakhstan would later go on to win the silver medal, losing to Russia in the final.

We had a wonderful time with our guides/interpreters/attachés who made sure we didn’t get into trouble, and who showed us around their beautiful and extremely interesting city. Someday I really am going to have to come back.

And to finish, a panoramic shot of the ice track at Medeo, which sits at about 1700m above sea level, making it the world’s highest.

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