by | Mar 13, 2019 | News, Tournaments, winter-universiade

Örjan Stål, Head of Swedish delegation testifies and reflects on an amazing experience and the way to the Olympics for bandy. The Swedish female team won gold medal and the male team won silver in the Winter Universiade!

We are on our way to the mysterious, unknown and mythical Siberia with tundra, mountain and infinite forests. From a historical perspective, there are lots of interesting events around Siberia in general and Krasnoyarsk in particular where the Winter Universiade 2019 is held. The city has been the headquarters of Kosacks and the city’s heavy metal industry was of great importance for the development of the Second World War. It was here that the Soviet Union could, without disturbing the German bombings, build up war material arsenals, which ultimately contributed to the red army, together with their allies, being able to end the Nazi tyranny. However, there is also a lot of black history in Krasnoyarsk and its surroundings. Here were purges made in the 20th-30s by non-consenting persons of the Communist Revolution in 1917. The area was also included in Gulag where millions of undesirable people were deported to camps after the war. In this city, the sports movement grew strongly during the Soviet era. In particular, the bandy came to have a very large and significant role for the city’s inhabitants. The city’s bandy team, Yenisei, who has the same name as the mighty river, became a gathering force for the people of Krasnoyarsk during the difficult time of the Communist regime. Yenisei gained national and international success from the late seventies. This gave the city’s residents pride and hope for the future. This made the bandy in general and the club Yenisei, with stars like Sergei Lomanov Sr. and Jr., gain an extremely high popularity.

Krasnoyarsk hosts one of the world’s largest sports events with 3,000 participants from 50 countries and over 5,000 officials. The bandy participates for the first time since the Universiade started in 1960. Since the bandy has such a great status in Krasnoyarsk, the bandy has the highest priority and status in the games. All bandy games are played in the new modern arena which provides perfect sporting conditions. Here our girls and guys are treated as superstars like players in the Premier League or NHL. The women’s first training was filmed and player Matilda Svenler interviewed by three different TV companies, one broadcasted live. In addition, there was a Japanese journalist who wanted to know more about the bandy and get more information about “the world’s best female player”.

It is incredibly fun that our girls and guys get the attention and appreciation they are worth. It rarely happens in Sweden where they always end up in the shadow of football and ice hockey. Participation in the Winter Universiade is the best marketing one can imagine for the sport of bandy. Internationally, it gives the opportunity for bandy to be discovered by more countries and thus become larger and strengthen their positions. Nationally, it will give rings on the water from the girls and boys who have participated. It will be an inspiration for young girls and boys to invest in playing bandy.

The event is impressive and I would say that the Bandy World Championships cannot be compared to this event in terms of facilities, officials or publicity. Since the bandy in some countries is still quite weak, it is difficult to be able to set up with a strong team according to the criteria that apply to the Universiade (age between 18–25 years and that one must be a student in a post-secondary education). However, the organization has full understanding that there may be great differences between the teams. Therefore, it is important that nations can develop over time through continued participation in the games.

The usual international exchange in bandy looks like a duck swimming in a puddle and participating in the Universiade is like being placed in a large ocean. We leaders and players who have the privilege to participate here have been involved in an almost surreal experience at all levels, from preparation, travel, accommodation, inauguration and contestants.

Everything was very controlled. An early notification of the squad is required with limited opportunities to change the squad’s composition when tournament starts. All equipment is sealed and transported directly to the arena and stored there throughout the tournament. All leaders and players live in a joint venue that is closed to non-practitioners, in addition to staff. Within the area there is everything that the participants need, dining room, shops, hairdressers, medical centre and training facilities. There is also full services with bus or car transport for the participants. The security level is meticulous. The entrances to the venue and all arenas have the same security control as at an airport.

The event has large and extensive opening and closing ceremonies, where all countries’ troops are part of the ceremonies by parading the country. Within the venue and at the ceremonies, all countries’ troops are mixed with each other. Here, all sports and countries are active with each other and when you do not compete you go to other sports competitions.

The opening ceremony had an incomparable entertainment and speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin and a number of former and active top sports women and men from Russia. The fire that burns throughout the Universiade, like Olympic Games, was lit by Yenisei’s great bandy star Sergei Lomanov Jr.

With the entry of bandy into the Universiade, the bandy has a chance to leave his duck pond for decades. The international exchange was initially limited to Sweden, Finland and Norway in the middle of the last century. In the 1950s, the Soviet Union joined. As a result, the Federation of International Bandy was also formed in 1955. From 1957 until 1985, these nations always played the World Championships. The United States entered the bandy world at the World Championships in Norway in 1985 and then more and more nations have been added over the years. In the latest World Championships in Sweden this year, which was held in Vänersborg, it was a record with twenty participating countries. The result has led the IOC – International Olympic Committee to finally open the eyes of bandy. Participation for the bandy in the Universiade is a first step on the road to becoming an official Olympic branch. The purpose of participating in this is that both the sport and the individual athlete must be prepared to represent and perform in an Olympic game, both sporting and organizational. For us in the sport of bandy, the difference is enormous between an own World Championship and an event such as the Universiade, that applies to everything from organization and facilities to sporting activities.

Bandy has been exposed through large-screen displays in the area. Many countries’ delegations have visited the bandy arena and seen male as well as female matches. I want to say that at least 90% of the participants from all 50 countries now have a hint of what bandy is. Several participants from countries that do not practice bandy have expressed their delight at our sport.

The physiotherapists who worked with the USA’s Olympic women’s and men’s ice hockey team expressed themselves like this:

“Why has this fantastic sport been hidden from the rest of the sports world?”

The media interest of bandy was huge, where each match was broadcasted live in Russian national TV, in the Olympic Channel and in Eurosport with fantastic productions. A delegation from the Olympic Committee has also been in place and seen a number of bandy matches.

Bandy has never been so close to the Olympic family. However, as I see it, there are a number of obstacles left for bandy before it can become an official Olympic branch. The leading bandy nations with its associations and clubs must prioritize and market international exchanges. Olympic acceptance for bandy would mean very much for the sport both nationally and internationally. The program for the next Universiade in Lausanne 2021 has been nailed for some years and bandy is not there. By contrast, the Universiade is planned for Lake Placid USA in 2023. There is the opportunity for bandy to re-participate.

Spasiba (thanks) and Dasvedanja (on reunion) Krasnoyarsk! “Welcome to warm Siberia” was the slogan for the competitions and where it was understood that it was not the winter temperature but the kindness and friendship it was aimed at. It really was true. We have been treated supremely by all organizers and volunteers. It has been friendly smiles all the time and never any problems with solving tasks. Each team was assigned an attaché who mastered the English in full and who made life easy for us during the stay. There is no word for how good these people are handled its commitment to us.

The whole event has been professionally managed. We are also very satisfied with our performance. The ladies took gold in a thrilling final and the men’s team didn’t really reach out but won silver. Personally, I and my colleague Thomas Lövstedt must thank all the lovely players – you have been fantastic on every level.

Örjan Stål
Head of the Swedish delegation