Summer Universiade kick starts in Kazan

A breathtaking opening ceremony of the 27th Summer Universiade has concluded in front of 45,000 people at the Kazan Arena in the capital of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan.

The colorful performance centered on the theme of Russia's ethnic diversity, the history of the Tatar people as well as Russian fairy tales and the greatest achievements of Russian scientists.

The festivities at the Kazan Arena began with a theatrical procession of some 300 artists representing the diversity of Russia, followed by a parade of participant nations in Russia’s second biggest stadium.

The theatrical performance was captivating and included more than 1,000 performers from local dance studios. More than 50 circus artists and aerialists traveled from Moscow to Kazan to put on a flawless acrobatic display which they rehearsed for three months. The spectators were handed a gift package, consisting of a tulip-shaped hand fan, three flashlights, a bell and 3D glasses, with every one having a role to play in the show.

Singers and musicians made the festivities in the arena unforgettable. The beauty of more than 2300 original hand-sewn costumes and more than 300 sets of props featuring more than 1,000 items made the event mesmerizing. It came to an emotional climax with the raising the flag of the International University Sports Federation and the lighting of the Flame of the Universiade.

Artists perform at the opening of the 27th world student games in Kazan, about 720 kilometers (450 miles) east of Moscow on July 7, 2013 (AFP Photo)

The games were declared open by the Russian President Vladimir Putin who welcomed the guests to "one of the most beautiful and oldest cities of our vast, multi-ethnic country."

The scale of Universiade can easily compare with the Olympic Games," said the President, adding that the organizers have done their best to make the competitors feel at home which makes it easier to deal with the pressure of competition.

Putin also said that "the atmosphere and the spirit of the Universiade will always be with each of us." Putin noted that all athletes share love for the sport, the hope of success and victory. "You're standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder united under common feelings and goals." Putin wished the athletes to achieve a “new personal best," so that memories can live forever.

President Vladimir Putin arrived for the opening ceremony after visiting the Universiade Village where he met with athletes representing Russia at the event.

The Kazan Universiade was the first ever to be preceded by a torch relay as its flame was ignited on June 15, 2012 at Paris' Sorbonne, which hosted the maiden World Student Games back in 1923.

The torch then travelled around the world aboard the Sedov sailing vessel, covering 45,000 nautical miles. 

RIA Novosti/Vladimir Vyatkin  

The Russian stage of the relay began on Russian Students' Day, January 25, with the flame moving westward from the east of the country, travelling through 30 major student, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg and 2014 winter Olympic capital, Sochi.  

The Universiade or the World Student Games will be taking place in the city of Kazan between July 6 and 17.  

Over 10,000 student athletes from 175 countries are to participate in the event, with hosts Russia providing the biggest team of 663 members.

351 sets of medals in 27 disciplines will be up for grabs in Kazan, with the names of the first medalists to be known already on Sunday.

The Games will use 64 venues, 36 of them constructed specifically for the occasion, including the Kazan Arena, which will host both the opening and the closing ceremonies of the Universiade. 

RIA Novosti/Vladimir Vyatkin

According to International University Sports Federation (FISU) president, Claude-Louis Gallien, the Kazan Universiade has cost the organizers $4.5 billion, which was spent both on facilities and the city’s infrastructure. 

The venues, built for the Games, will be widely used in the future during major sporting events like the 2015 World Swimming Championship and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Around 100,000 fans from all over the world are expected to visit the capital of Russia’s republic of Tatarstan during the Games, with tickets already sold out for most of the events.  

Security measures have been tightened within the Universiade home city with 24,000 interior ministry servicemen are deployed to Kazan. 

A fireworks display at the opening ceremony of the 27th World University Summer Games at the Kazan Arena stadium, Kazan. (RIA Novosti/Konstantin Chalabov)

It’s the second time the Universiade has been held on Russian soil after Moscow hosted the Summer World Student Games back in 1973. 

The Universiade is a multi-sport event for university students from all over the globe.

Just like the Olympics, the World Student Games have a summer and a winter version, held with a two year gap between them.

Artists perform at the opening ceremony of the 27th Universiade students Games in Kazan, 720 kilometers (450 miles) east of Moscow on July 7, 2013 (AFP Photo)