In my early 20s, full of energy and adrenaline, I tried to change my passion, snowboarding, in a professional career.
My races were almost on a weekly basis and my ranking was improving.
And then an important competition fastly approached in my calendar. The selection of the Universiade.
The idea to represent my country in a sporting event was such an exciting idea. And possibly I was way too excited of that because I underperformed and I did not qualify.
Now in 2019, many years later, I have been invited by Nornickel and the Follow Up Siberia project to attend the Universiade in Krasnoyarsk.
You can well understand how happy I was when I opened the email with the official invitation.
I worked with Nornickel and Follow Up Siberia in late 2018 with the aim to demystify Siberia (read more here) and show the local life in this unique region of the world (read more here). I had such a great time. Two of the best partners I have ever worked with.
Universiade and Olimpic games
Universiade is a name that comes from the words University and Olimpiade.
It is a small Olimpic Games reserved to the University students. It’s one of the few remaining world events for young amateurs with great sports skills.
The average age of the athletes is between 17 and 25 and the participants must have either a diploma or an academic degree.
There are two editions of the Universiade, winter and summer, and they are both run by the FISU (Internation University Sports Federation).
The great thing about the Universiade is that they are held in off-the-radar locations and Krasnoyarsk, in Siberia, has been unanimously selected for the 2019 edition.
The happy city of Krasnoyarsk
I have been travelling for all my life. I have visited so many cities and countries.
Admittedly, Krasnoyarsk, a city of 1 million people, does not rank in my most beautiful destinations list.
And I am not the kind of blogger that promotes a destination just because I have been invited there.
Possibly I was very unlucky with the weather, much warmer than expected in March (around 0 degree Celsius). There was almost no trace of snow and mud everywhere (or melted snow).
It was a bit of a black and white city, with an industrial look.
In saying that I found Krasnoyarsk very unique, on its own way, with a lively underground and arty scene and plenty of interesting people willing to talk with me.
People were so happy to host the Universiade and they definitely made the most of themselves to leave the best impression of Krasnoyarsk.
If on a Siberia trip I would definitely suggest a stop of few days in Krasnoyarsk and explore the arty scene starting with a drink at the Yushin Brothers, a mix of hipster/industrial/postmodern/street art bar/cafe (even difficult to define it).
On an unpretentious back lane, walk up the stairs to the top of an industrial building. The surprises will start with the enormous round window at the entrance.
Ask if Denis, the owner, is there, share a drink with him and surely he will take you around to his underground postmodern pub/museum where he hosts also many social events, including English talks, a great way to meet new locals and help them to learn the language.
Denis will give you some tips on other places to see and interesting events in the city.
And if you are looking for a great spot for landscape photography in the city than head over to the Kommunalny Bridge at sunset.
A spectacular view on the Ostroy Posadnyy Island and the cityscape in the background.
Numbers of Krasnoyarsk 2019
These are a few numbers to put the Krasnoyarsk Universiade in a wider contest.
- 220,000 guests and spectators. It has been incredible to see entire classes of local students assisting in the events. These moments can change the life of people.
- over 50 participating countries, a few of which with just one athlete. I can’t imagine how exciting must have been the opening ceremony for her or him
- 5,000 volunteers: literally everywhere, always helping out with a big smile. Definitely a great part of the event
- 12 test events and 76 sets of medals. I have seen a sport I was not even aware of, bandy. A sort of hockey with football rules played with a small round ball on ice
- 1.5 Billion TV viewers. Definitely a great exposure for Krasnoyarsk and Siberia.
- 1.9kg, the weight of the Universiade Flame Torch, much heavier than I thought 🙂
And, I may add, a 1 million happy people in Krasnoyarsk.
My take on the Universiade and Krasnoyarsk
In my eyes, the event has been hugely successful.
It was an absolutely great experience for me. The vibe around the city was just magical.
I also run a short photography talk in the Universiade Village, which will stay in my memory forever.
I would definitely love to go back to Krasnoyarsk and explore more of the underground scene. I just scratched the surface and it was amazing.
And I would love to see more of the countryside around the city. I had a snowmobile trip on the iced Krasnoyarsk Reservoir which was absolutely amazing.
Not too talk about the trekking around the mountains bordering Krasnoyarsk.
And surely, it has been an awesome time for the entire city, suddenly in the centre of the world.
You could definitely feel the excitement in the people walking in the street.
Nornickel, the main sponsor, has done such an amazing job. All planned to the small details.
My only regret is that I did not experience this great vibe of the Universiade many years ago, as an athlete, but I may start training in curling, the age should not be a problem 🙂
My last two words…….thanks Krasnoyarsk