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Murmansk seeks new glory in winter sports

Murmansk intends to strengthen its position as center for biathlon and cross-country skiing.

MURMANSK. As Russia is organizing it’s first ever Olympic Winter Games, Murmansk is building a multi-million euro new Nordic skiing complex just a stroll from the city center.

Location

In Soviet days, thousands of skiers from all over Union gathered in Murmansk to take part in the Northern Festival (“Prazdnik Severa”), one of the most prestigious skiing competitions in the country.  Even during the 2WW when fierce battles raged in the Kola Peninsula, the winter festival took place. In the 1980s, the festival organizers adopted the Olympic tradition of igniting a festival torch at the central city square, whereupon the games were branded the “Polar Olympics”.

Reportedly, Soviet authorities for some time also considered a bid for a real winter Olympics in Murmansk.

After a dip in the 1990s, Nordic skiing is again on the agenda in Russia’s Arctic capital. This year, the Northern Festival is organized for the 80th time and anniversary celebrations are underway. Leader of the Murmansk Sports Committee Svetlana Naumova admits that this year’s festival will be special.

The anniversary event comes as a top modern skiing complex is under construction at the Dolina Uyuta (“Pleasure Valley”), the local skiing center, just few kilometers from the city downtown. The complex, which will include several new buildings, spectator tribunes and skiing tracks, could ultimately bring the city back in the warmth of the international skiing community.

Sports Committee leader Naumova says the new facilities will enhance the chances of Murmansk to get international competitions.

Last time Murmansk organized a world cup competition in cross country skiing was in 1984. World cup competions in biathlon were organized in the city in 1978 and 1980. Already this year, the Dolina Uyuta will host the Russian national biathlon championships.

During a recent visit to the site, workers were hectically engaged in completing the new spectator tribune. A new lighted track had just been opened and Finnish-made time measurement technology was due to arrive shortly.

The interest in skiing among young people remains solid and the the local sports school reportedly has as many as 600 students in the field of cross-country skiing and biathlon. “Biathlon is the most popular”, leader of the local skiing school Valentin Shulyatev said in a recent meeting with Norwegian sports representatives.  Murmansk has over the year breeded a number of great skiiers and biathlonists, among them Aleksey Petukhov, Anna Bogali and Valery Kirienko. According to Shulyatev, federal authorities now actively support the development of ski sports in Murmansk.

The whole sport complex is to be ready for the 2015 skiing season.