The news that Turkmenistan will be the first Central Asian country to host the AIMAG came in 2010 when the host city contract was signed between the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and the National Olympic Committee of Turkmenistan in Kuwait. The contract was signed following an earlier 2006 exploratory visit of the representatives of the International Olympic Committee and the OCA to Turkmenistan. Held every four years, AIMAG will bring together the best athletes and teams of Asian countries to compete in 17 sports in Ashgabat in 2017. The 4th AIMAG took place in the city of Incheon, South Korea from June 29-July 6, 2013 and Ashgabat officially received the OCA flag from Incheon at the closing ceremony on July 6.
In January and December 2013, President Berdimuhamedov created two committees, an Organizing Committee of the Asian Games and an Executive Committee respectively to oversee the preparations for the 5th Asian Games. In order to host the AIMAG in Turkmenistan, Turkmen government began a massive construction of a US$ 5 billion Olympic Village in Ashgabat expected to be the largest sports complex in Central Asia.
Built by Turkey’s construction company Polimeks, the Olympic Village project covers an area of over 150 hectares and includes more than 30 facilities such as a closed athletics complex, a 5,000-seat-capacity water complex, a 4,000-seat-capacity indoor tennis court, hotels, stadiums, entertainment centers, an indoor cycle track designed for 6,000 seats, a Paralympics complex and shopping centers. The entire project will be implemented in three phases, with the first completed in 2014, the second in 2015 and the third six months before the games begin in 2017.
Within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding between Turkmenistan and the United Kingdom on cooperation in the field of sports, Turkmenistan held two major media forums with foreign experts in June and November 2013 to ensure worldwide media coverage of the 5th Asian Games in 2017. At the end of September 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly with the USAID organized a seminar entitled “international experience in the organization of international sports events.”
Following the speeches of company heads at the December 18 Cabinet meeting, President Berdimuhamedov outlined the detailed priority tasks regarding the preparations for AIMAG. Particularly, the State Sports Committee of Turkmenistan, jointly with the National Olympic Committee of Turkmenistan, was tasked to prepare Turkmenistan’s high level sportsmen in all 17 types of games during the 2017 Asian Games in Ashgabat. Selected sportsmen will be sent for training abroad and the State Sports Committee will hire experienced foreign trainers. The president noted that the referees will also need to attend international trainings.
Berdimuhamedov said that the emblem, mascot and souvenirs of the Asian Games should reflect the national symbols of Turkmenistan and the Turkmen people. The torch of the Asian Games will officially be lit and carried across the territory of Turkmenistan with a starting point at Mary province’s Galkynysh gas field, the world’s second largest deposit of natural gas.
According to the President’s Asian Games preparation action plan, the Ashgabat city mayor’s office is to prepare all commercials and advertisements around the city including geographic as well as tourist maps, videos and booklets about the Olympic Village and the Asian Games. TV, radio and Cinematography committee of Turkmenistan will air the championships live. The Ministry of Culture was tasked to oversee the opening and closing ceremonies as well as awarding the winners of the championships accompanied by international concerts.
The Ministry of Education will select and train the English and Russian speaking volunteers abroad to serve the foreign visitors during the Asian Games. In addition, Turkmen-English, Turkmen-Russian, and Turkmen-Arabic special conversational dictionaries and sports dictionaries will be prepared to aid the foreign visitors.
To prepare for the 5th Asian Games, Turkmenistan has also started building a brand new international airport in Ashgabat and the Turkmenistan Airlines jointly with the State Customs Service of Turkmenistan is going to allow the foreign sports delegations a simplified procedure of transfer through the customs and the clearance of their sports equipment.
The Ministry of Communications will provide a currently non-existent Wi-Fi connection in Ashgabat, proper internet communication within the Olympic Village and cellular service in residential houses for the guests. The Central Bank is tasked to make the exchange points as well as MasterCard payment systems available at the hotels. Also, the Textile Ministry is going to prepare gifts with Asian Games symbols for sports games participants and special uniforms for flight attendants and Asian Games volunteers.
The President instructed the Trade and Foreign Economic Relations Ministry to prepare high quality food service, Asian cuisine by hiring famous chefs from abroad. The Ministry of Healthcare will train high quality medical doctors and collaborate with the World Health Organization on doping control during the championships. Onsite ambulance service and special medical rooms are envisioned to be stationed at all times. The Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Internal Affairs are tasked to provide utmost security during the Games.
Promoting the sports and physical culture in the country is a priority of President Berdimuhamedov’s policies. In July 2014, Turkmenistan is also going to host the first ever international wind surfing World Cup in the coastal resort area of Awaza and invite professional surfers of the Professional Windsurfers Association (PWA). The government also hopes that hosting such sports events will help to improve Turkmenistan’s reputation worldwide. The government’s action plan for preparations to host the AIMAG sounds comprehensive but it remains to be seen how this entire service infrastructure will be built from scratch.