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16th FINA World Championships

July 24 - August 9, 2015
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Fina - FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DENATATION

Ranko Tepavcevic: We are going to host the most ambitious World Championships ever

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13.07.2015, 13:14 Interviews
Secretary General of the Executive Directorate for Sports Project, Ranko Tepavcevic, who is responsible for the preparation of sports venues for the upcoming FINA World Championships, sat down for an interview in which he explained why Kazan is able to bid to host sporting events of any kind and what is so special about sports facilities built for the forthcoming World Aquatics Championships.

We are going to host the most ambitious World Championships ever

– It is safe to say that all preparations for the World Aquatics Championships are mostly done. Do you personally have a feeling that we all are on the threshold of a mega event?

– As it usually happens when something is about to end, the emotions are about to grow. However, every single day brings us the results of a real teamwork, showing that even the tiniest piece can be a part of something really big, like puzzle pieces falling into one beautiful picture. We are to hold the largest international sporting event of 2015 and it is a huge responsibility, because so far we have never dealt with something like this, 2,700 athletes representing 190 countries will come to Kazan. You can compare it with the 2009 World Championships in Italy where 2,500 athletes from 185 countries took part. Taking into consideration that some new events were officially included to the FINA World Championships programme we may suppose that the forthcoming Championships will make it into history.

At the same time we are aware of the responsibility that lies upon our shoulders. I can say that we paid considerable attention to the preparation of fields of play and sports venues. When the competitions begin, 4.5 bln spectators will closely follow the action. That’s why even small details are of tremendous importance.

– There was an enormous preparation for the 2013 Summer Universiade that left the host city a rich legacy of sports venues. Is it true to say that due to this it’s been much easier for Kazan to prepare for the 16th FINA World Championships?

– You are quite right. When bidding to host these Championships, we kept in mind that huge legacy that we'll have after the Universiade. All training venues were already available: Burevestnik Swimming Pool, Akcharlak Swimming Pool, Olymp Swimming Pool. The Aquatics Palace didn’t require any reconstructions either. Moreover, it is a unique multifunctional sports venue because alongside with diving competitions it can also host swimming and water polo training sessions. Its close location to the Kazan Arena Stadium gave us an idea to hold the World Aquatics Championships in a single cluster where all key venues will be located. Back then these venues were just construction sites but the very idea was enough to win the bid.

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This project is our baby that we nursed with love and care

– What you mean to say is that a favourable location of all the venues has given you an advantage over other bidding cities?

– Not quite. I guess it’s mostly the positive image of our city. Kazan is famous for keeping promises which is quite important in modern life. That’s one of the reasons why FINA decided to collaborate with us because we know how everything should be organised to the highest standard and have an experience in holding such events. Location is clearly not the last thing to pay attention to, but, most importantly, we now have a strong team supported not only by leaders of the country and the republic but also by population, which is sort of anticipating every major sporting event including the World Aquatics Championships. Everything mentioned above lets our city win bids and be the host city of international championships of any level.

– Any level? Do you mean that after the Universiade, 16th FINA World Championships and FIFA World Cup Kazan will be experienced enough to hold even the Olympic Games? Is Kazan ready to host it?

– Frankly, international sports federations ask me this very question all the time. Kazan is well-known as a sports capital and it’s definitely not going to lose its position. Thanks to numerous championships held here, Government and population’s support and experienced team, Kazan can easily take a challenge and hold different kinds of events, even the most ambitious ones (smiles). 

– Unlike the Universiade, we had to prepare for the FINA World Championships amidst quite an unstable financial and political situation in the world. What difficulties have you faced so far?

- This project is our baby, and of course each stage of its development has had its own issues to solve. By the way, politics has been no issue at all. We are organising a sporting event, what does politics have to do with it? Sanctions? But as you can see, the record number of countries have applied. Athletes will be pleased to come to Kazan to participate in the main tournament of 2015, which will help them qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The global interest in the World Championships is massive! I hope we are going to witness new world records in Kazan so that the name of the city will go down in global sports history.

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We work like artists

– How has an unstable economic situation in the world influenced the preparation process? Have you had to make serious adjustments?

– As I have already noted, Kazan always fulfills its obligations. It’s true that the crisis has affected everyone, but in most aspects we have easily found a common ground with the FINA representatives. It’s important to see positive moments in everything. For instance, now we can make a statement that the whole project, except for the installation of swimming pools, is implemented by Russian contractors, which means that we have supported domestic producers.

In any project there are aspects that are not subject to expenditure cuts. For example, how is it possible to save on organising the competitions or on broadcasting services? There’s no way. These services are to be organized to the highest standard.

– You were able to fulfill not only obligations, but super tasks, too. As far as I know there is no requirement for hosting swimming competitions on a football field.

– Generally we work like artists. We hosted the FIE World Championships in the Tennis Academy, the European Badminton Championships were successfully held in the Gymnastics Centre. I can give you many other examples. Now you will see the FINA World Championships at a football stadium. Modern sports venues enable us implement the boldest ideas. You have to plan all logistics at the development or construction phases, whether that be VIP hospitality areas or media areas. The Kazan Arena Stadium was not an exception. We didn’t have to start works in indoor facilities instead we concentrated our efforts on the swimming pool and the canopy. Having such universal venues equipped with proper logistics Kazan may claim not only the FINA World Championships, but actually any tournament.

– By the way, Russian Swimming Federation President Vladimir Salnikov has already mentioned the temporary canopy and said that he himself would be delighted to train at a naturally ventilated arena. But were you not concerned to take up risks and go for such a bold experiment right at the beginning of this venture?

– I wouldn’t call it an experiment. This is a serious plan and we understand how to make every step of it. What’s more, we already had all the answers while presenting the bid. There was no stadium yet, but we already envisioned where the press area, passes for athletes would be and how all the logistics would generally be organised. As for the canopy, it will enable holding the competitions, no matter what weather conditions would be. Over 4.5 bln people will follow the FINA World Championships. Special attention will be paid to swimming and synchronised swimming events. So we want the competitions at the Kazan Arena Stadium to meet the highest standards.

Yes, I agree with Mr Salnikov that athletes will feel comfortable to perform in the Kazan Arena Stadium. Natural air circulation in a swimming pool is an athlete’s dream.

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We will offer better views from stands than the London Olympics did

- To come to this perspective, did you have to ask for current or former athletes’ advice?

- I myself have been into professional swimming for over 20 years. As part of our national team, I participated in many major competitions. So I am that ‘former athlete’ (smiles). In fact we always try to look at everything through the eyes of Championships participants. We try to work out every single step of an athlete at a venue and understand his or her needs and wishes. We aim to come up to those expectations and create the best facilities for the athletes. That’s why I can assure you that they will feel satisfied and content with everything at the Kazan Arena Stadium. A training swimming pool is located right by the competition one, and athletes’ stands will be just 10 metres away from it. The same goes for the Water Polo Arena where everything will be compact as well.

- During one of media tours, Director General of the Executive Directorate for Sports Projects, Azat Kadyrov, noted that visibility opportunities at the Kazan Arena Stadium would be even better than at the London Olympics. What about other venues?

- This is a matter of our pride! While discussing erection of temporary stands with contractors, we first and foremost relied on the Olympic Games experience. At some point we compared the numbers and understood that our visibility factor was even higher than at London 2012. So our spectators will get the most of the view from their seats in the whole world. Just imagine a temporary stand will be just 6 metres away from a swimming lane and you get a feeling that a show is performed right in front of you and specially for you. The same is true for the water polo venue. I think that people and guests of the city will not want to miss a unique chance to see the largest tournament of this year in the most comfortable surroundings and will take care of tickets in advance.

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How people feel is more important than records and statistics

- I can’t but ask about journalists. What seats will you offer to them?

- Best seats ever are always reserved for your colleagues. You will be provided with all possible services for media to a high standard. We’ve received the record number of applications from media throughout the entire tournament history. Most of the applications were submitted by journalists from Australia, USA, Canada, and Japan. Luckily, the Universiade occurred to be a perfect platform to master our communication with media.

- The whole world is so interested in this competition, don’t you find it astonishing? We are kind of one step ahead of Barcelona, the previous host city of the World Aquatics Championships.

- We don’t like this comparison, mainly because we do it for our spectators, to make them happy, not for any other kind of reason. Statistics is doubtlessly important; it follows the quantity of athletes, spectators and journalists whereas we treat every one of them as an individual. And each of them should enjoy their stay in Kazan and get every help and support they need. We can see how the city’s appearance is changing and I am sure that our guests will be given a warm welcome. Seeing smiling faces, meeting happy people during the Championships will be much more important for us than any kind of statistics.

- Athletes from what countries will be first to have their training sessions at sports venues? Is our Russian team in a favourable position as the host team?

- Training facilities will be provided on a first-come, first served basis: the team that arrives first in Kazan is first to start training. Whether it is the Russian national team or Brazilian national team, it all depends on the flight schedule. Everything is as simple as that. For example, the Russian national team will be among the first ones to start training sessions at the Water Polo Arena. July 23 is a booked day for the national teams of Canada, Kazakhstan, New Zealand and Russia. However, not everything is settled like this. Female synchro swimmers from China, Japan, Australia and Brazil start their training sessions on July 20 whereas Russia’s first day of trainings is July 22.

Brazil’s national team will be the first one at the Aquatics Palace as well, where they will have practices on July 19 alongside with the national teams of Colombia, Australia and Germany. On July 28, swimmers from China, Japan and Ecuador will join them. Only high divers will be on equal terms as, for obvious reasons, their practices usually start all at the same time.

In conclusion I’d like to point out that we do not create any special conditions to anyone. It has been absolutely up to athletes and federations to come a bit earlier to Kazan and book training venues. Being the host city, the best thing that we can do is to make sure that our guests feel comfortable in Kazan. And we hope that the 16th  FINA World Championships will be a fantastic and fair competition bringing only positive emotions to everyone!

Vsevolod Dvorkin, Press Office of Organising Committee for 16th FINA World Championships