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3 Oct, 2010 14:04

Sports in the land of volcanoes and bears

Kamchatka Peninsula is eight time zones away from Moscow, famous not only for its volcanoes and bears, but also its supply of Olympic, World and European champions in the past.

Leading a healthy way of life seems a part of everyday existence in Kamchatka. It is blissfully easy to take care of yourself there, whether through playing sport or simply relaxing in a spa.

Following a period of instability and population decline in the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union, the region is slowly but confidently rising from the abyss and the locals want the whole world to experience what it has to offer.

Kamchatka thrives on its fishing industry but tourism remains a hidden gem. Located at the Far Eastern end of Russia, the landscape is similar to Alaska, both beautiful and dangerous at the same time.

Professional snowboarder and entrepreneur Aleksandr Moroz realizes that sport and tourism go hand in hand.

He provides training facilities for Olympians and aims to introduce Kamchatka’s rich heritage to tourists both from home and abroad.

His mountain hotel and snowboard camp in the wilderness is an example of how private capital is helping to improve the region’s largely untapped tourism market.

“Sport and tourism complement each other and it's a fact – the Olympic Games are a good example. I think there is nothing wrong with businesses profiting from sport, because this way we are ensuring further development of sport. And this is how I came up with the concept of a camp specializing in professional snowboarding for athletes which can also serve as a year round resort for tourists. We are also a home base for Kamchatka's Paralympic alpine skiers. Kamchatka prides itself on its martial arts legacy as well," said Aleksandr Moroz, who is also president of the Kamchatka Snowboard Association.

Statistics show that almost half of the young people in Kamchatka prefer combat sport to other disciplines – kickboxing being a favourite. The aim is to develop an interest in sport from a young age.

It is hoped that such activities will encourage youths to fight off temptations such as drugs and alcohol, something that is an issue in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski.

“There is really no secret method to approaching youth at any given moment in time. We accept kids as young as six years old and interactive training sessions with elements of play maintain their continuous interest for sports. We all know that children are very active, but we try not to push them too hard before they choose a sport they are really into. Once they make their choice – in my case it's kickboxing – I introduce them to more advanced practice options. And that's it,” Nikolay Kazansky, kickboxing coach, said.

A new gas pipeline recently launched by President Dmitry Medvedev will help social causes, such as the development of tourism infrastructure, revival of great athletic traditions and supporting the advancement of grassroots sports.

Local authorities know what needs to be done, and that is nurture existing young talent.

“Kamchatka is one of the youngest places on earth and, like its volcanoes, it continues to breathe, erupting energy. The force of the next generation is very positive and obviously it's directed to sport. This is the main feature of Kamchatka – its kind and strong youth that charges everyone's energy levels. Sports like football, snowboarding, Alpine skiing, Kyokushin Karate and many others unite the local population, bringing new creative ideas and of course physical strength,” Vladislav Skvortsov, Mayor of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski, said.

Check out the next part of RT's Kamchatka chronicles to learn about:

Kyokushin Karate – Arguably the region’s favourite martial art,
Raising spirits and champions – local world class coach trains Paralympic swimmers,
And 5K that unites the country – Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky opens the running day held across Russia.