Main Drain Man
Youth Team Star
Feb 28, 2017, 5:29 PM
Team(s): Kingstonian, Ipswich Town, Sheffield United, Rotherham United and East Fife
Re: [The Moose] Where are you going - where did you go? SPEEDWAY!!!
Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th February
Ice Speedway Grand Prix Round 3
Medeu Stadium near Almaty, Kazakhstan
Admission 2000 teng (£5) per day
Programme see below
Attendance c 5,000 Saturday and 4,000 Sunday
The 26th country I’ve visited for speedway almost became my 6th overseas destination (7th match) postponement before it had got under way. Having faced postponements in Canada, Australia, Sweden, Austria (x2) and Hungary the last thing we expected on a brilliantly sunny Saturday in the Trans-Ili Ala-Tau Mountains was a similar occurence.
Having purchased the Almaty equivalent of an Oyster card for 400 teng (£1) top ups cost a further 80 teng (20p) a journey which for a distance of about 15 km was pretty good value.
Not knowing how long the journey would actually take we boarded the number 12 bus from downtown Almaty to the stadium, arriving well before the start so adjourned to the local bar/restaurant for a pre match libation. With little knowledge of the language I had worked out that the alcoholic drinks came in similar measurements to Europe, so it would have been rude not to sample another of the countries beers, especially as the one which caught my eye was the National Drink.
Believe me 2 pints of rancid horse milk was not what I expected or what the doctor ordered but the Shimkent beer I ultimately received was able to take away the taste.
With entrance to the stadium held up until just before start and the reserved seats I had ordered not actually showing on the tickets it became a bit of a free for all but we actually sat in the ones booked in the main starting straight grandstand. Seemingly there was nothing for paper huggers on sale so I started to make my own score sheet, on the rear of the ticket when we spotted a few people with what seemed a pretty good glossy brochure.
On enquiring, I was directed to the press office where it became obvious they would not let me have one for any money at all, although I was given a rider list and race sheet for the day.
When I left the centre, the first race was about to start and for safety reasons I was not allowed to walk around the 1st/2nd bends during racing so was dragged into the back straight seats by an obliging police officer who had already lifted the steps up from the pathway. This proved to be an excellent view and I saw two laps of a very fast and excellent race. Seemingly race leader Danil Ivanov had a puncture going into the back straight on the 3rd lap which caused him to lift and fall (sustaining a broken collar bone) whilst his bike flew into Nicklaus Svensson behind with a horrific sound as spikes entered spokes and Nicklaus was also thrown off. Credit to the Kazakh rider behind who somehow steered round both fallen riders to save even worse injuries.
With ambulances on track I convinced the police I had to get to my seat in the main grandstand and was let through to join a concerned other half. She had noted details on my home made score sheet as we waited for the rerun.
Incredibly this never arrived as a major fog came in from the mountains and you could not see further than a couple of rows in front of you. With a wait of around an hour the message came around that the meeting was postponed and the crowd made its way to exits with many stopping to exchange tickets for the following day. Having bought up front it was not worth queuing for a refund bearing in mind it was only a fiver each we were down.
They reckon 160 world records have been set at this stadium so we were proud to be part of the 161st as around 200 people were crammed into a single decker bus back into the city. My consolation that was at least the Kazakh a**e squashed in my face for an hours ride down the mountain was quite a pleasant one but unbelievably they were letting more skiers onto the bus at the next stop, increasing the crush.
Once back at the hotel, on reading the speedway forum, we saw that the meeting was not abandoned but they were giving it a few hours for the fog to clear. We could probably have cabbed it there but decided to down some of the local ales and nibbles we had bought instead and watch TV.
I saw that Igor Kononov had won the meeting with a 15 point maximum although race offs were abandoned with the fog still affecting the area.
Sunday 19th February
1st Kononov 2nd Koltakov 3rd Khomitsevich (all Russia) 4th Zorn (Austria)
We were greeted on the Sunday by a white covered city with snow falling quite thickly at times. Doing a bit of sightseeing of the stunning wooden cathedral we had missed earlier in the week on route, plus memorials of various past conflicts we took the same seats on Sunday in a snow covered arena. Snow fell lightly throughout but it wasn’t uncomfortable and the brilliant Kazakhs, on hearing we were British plied us with all manner of spirits and had selfies taken with us as souvenirs.
Not daunted by yesterday’s rejections we went to the media centre and this time two polite young men actually offered programmes at no charge, probably assuming that we had accreditation as the room was heaving with journos. TBH the 24 page edition was one of the best I have seen at ice racing full on interesting statistics and editorial (sadly all in Russian) but a shame they did not put them on sale to the fans. Possibly there was no interest but we gave one of the race sheets to local girl who was well pleased with it.
At last we got to see full days racing which, whilst not being the best ever, was still pretty exciting and the locals created an excellent atmosphere and were really fanatical.
Mission accomplished we returned to our 5 star accommodation and blew £80 on a meal, which proved the perfect end to our 6 day break.
I always try to make my own arrangements for foreign travel and although we were in the top hotel in the city and had an extra night’s accommodation more than the organised trip from the UK we saved over £250 between us by doing it ourselves, rather than going with them.
Beer prices varied from £1 in the excellent little Schtab bar (hard to find but well worth it if you do) to around £5 in the hotel. Not that many sights in the city to see but loads of museums and the cable car to the top of Kok Tobe was a good half day out. Locals are fantastic people too.
Culturally we attended opera and ballet in the stunning Abay theatre for about £4 a go with the country’s top performers on show, whilst for paper chasers the very popular programmes for both these events, with up to date performers lists inserted, sold for 1.5 teng each, slightly less than 1/2p. A theatre hoppers dream.
Riding our luck we also got into a party held by one of the country’s top rock Acts Moldazzar, whilst others were turned away at the door so a memorable trip all round, in spite of missing one day’s racing.
(This post was edited by Main Drain Man on Feb 28, 2017, 5:30 PM)