2017 was an exciting year for sports in the Caspian basin, as global-scale events were hosted there throughout the year, helping to further build the Caspian region brand and build its reputation as a secure, attractive and welcoming market for tourism, commerce and athletics.
Caspian News put together a list of the major sporting events held in the region throughout 2017.
2017 was not a first for Azerbaijan to host global sports events, but the year only helped to cement its capital city, Baku, as a key spot for hosting the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix racecar match. Held in June, the race was Azerbaijan’s second of its kind, and formed the eight segment out of 20 for the F1 racing season. Ten teams, including Mercedes, Renault, McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull competed along the Baku City Circuit, the second-longest F1 track in the world, measuring just over six kilometers (3.7 miles).
The first major sporting event held in Baku in 2017, however, was the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games. Held from May 8-22, the games welcomed more than 6,000 athletes from 63 Muslim-majority countries.
Central Asia’s largest country came under the spotlight after hosting the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup’s fifth stage from May 20-27. Picturesque and vast steppes lying along the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea welcomed some of the world’s best long distance, off-road racing enthusiasts, from countries including Belgium, France, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.
From July 7-22, Kazakhstan hosted the seventh Silk Way Rally, again bringing together off-road racing fans who witnessed a journey that started in Moscow’s Red Square and finished in Xi’an city in central China. After passing through Russian cities like Cheboksary, Kazan and Ufa, drivers made their way to Russia’s border with Kazakhstan, and arrived in the capital Astana. On their way to Semey (Semipalatinsk), the oldest city in Kazakhstan, drivers then traversed the ridges of the Tien Shan Mountains and headed into neighboring China.
Russia was the first in the Caspian region to host the FIFA Confederations Cup, an international men’s football, or soccer, tournament organized by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Held once every four years, last year’s event kicked off on June 17 in St. Petersburg and wrapped up July 2 in Moscow. As Germany’s national team clinched the championship title, the match became a sort of dress rehearsal for Russia, which will be hosting the FIFA World Cup from June 14 to July 15.
Football was not the only sport that put Russia on the 2017 athletics map, however. Sochi hosted the fourth segment of the 2017 Formula One races, with the VTB Russian Grand Prix in April.
Considered the biggest multi-sport event uniting Asian countries, the fifth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games was a first for Turkmenistan. Ashgabat had been preparing for the games since December 2010, as the government invested $5 billion in the development of a sports complex that accommodates around 100,000 spectators.
The games, held from September 17-27, brought together 63 countries represented by more than 4,000 athletes who competed in 21 sports, including basketball, volleyball, handball, mini-football, freestyle and classical wrestling, judo, taekwondo, tennis, gymnastics and cycling.