From Kazakhstan Encyclopedia

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The view of the skating rink from the Medeu Dam
File:1988 CPA 5923.jpg
Medeu on a stamp

The Medeu, (Kazakh: Медеу; Medeu) is an outdoor speed skating and bandy rink. It is located in a mountain valley (Medeu Valley, or the valley of Malaya Alma-Atinka River) on the south-eastern outskirts of Almaty, Kazakhstan. Medeu sits 1,691 metres above sea level. Although it calls itself "The Highest Skating Rink in the World",[1] some rinks such as the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge, Colorado (elevation Template:Convert) are located at significantly higher elevations.[2] It has 10.5 thousand square meters of ice and utilizes a sophisticated freezing and watering system to ensure the quality of the ice. The mountain valley was named in honor of Medeo, a wanderer who lived in the last century and established own aul in this picturesque. site.[3]

Construction of the stadium began in the fall of 1949, and the first competition took place at the stadium on 4 February 1951. Medeu switched to its current system of artificial ice in 1972 by a team of Soviet engineers.

The Medeu Dam, built in the late 1960s, stands immediately south of the skating rink, protecting it – and the city of Almaty itself – from potentially devastating mud flows. Viewpoints on top of the dam provide great views of the stadium. The dam has 3 successive altitude levels. Special water reservoir allows holding about 6 million cubic meters of water. Stairs known to city inhabitants and tourists consisting of 842 steps leads to the dam. Contests on ascension along this unique stairs are regularly carried out. [4]

Medeu has seen many world records in all the speed skating distances from 1951 until the 1980s: 500 m, 1000 m, 1500 m, 3000 m, 5000 m, and the 10000 m. In 1972, the rink made a very successful transition from natural ice rink to artificial ice rink.[5]

The bandy team Dynamo Alma-Ata played its homegames at Medeu and won the Soviet Championships in 1977[6] and 1990[7] and the European Cup in 1978.[8]

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the costs to uphold the arena as a top ice rink proved too expensive for the independent Republic of Kazakhstan. The last great championship event for a long time on this ice rink was held in 1988—the Men's World Speed Skating Championship—which was won by the American skater Eric Flaim.

In the early years of the 2000s, Medeo's future status as a competition rink was uncertain. However, it was proposed as the speed skating venue both for Almaty's unsuccessful bid for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and the successful one for the 2011 Asian Winter Games.[9] In the end, bandy was the only sport here during the Games.[10] Speed skating was held at Alau Ice Palace in Astana. Medeo was the main arena of the 2012 Bandy World Championship.

Several years in succession (1990–2004) the ice skating rink turned into the large concert ground where the popular international music festival “Voice of Asia” (“Azia Dauysy”) was carried out in which not only Kazakhstan performers but also variety stars from all over the world take part.[3]

Medeo in the 2011 Winter Asian Games

On 4 March 2006, Kazakhstan received the right to host the 2011 Asian Games. The Winter Asian Games were the largest scale competition ever to take place in Kazakhstan, and took place from 30 January until 6 February. While a large portion of the events took place in Astana, Almaty hosted a number of the events, including ski jumps, cross-country skiing, and of course, bandy. For the purpose of hosting this event, Medeu stadium was renovated during 2009, reopening on 16 December after undergoing 19.4 billion tenge (131.8 million USD) worth of repairs and improvements.[11]

Stadium Medeo and ski resort Shymbulak experienced major reconstruction during the preparations for 2011 Asian Winter Games. Most of the engineering and technical systems were replaced. The new refrigeration station for cooling the ice appeared. Visualization systems has changed (electronic scoreboard and a photo finish), lighting and sound. Established a new multimedia display area of 200 m² by U.S. company Billboard Video, which shows the results of any sport games, broadcasts television programs and commercials. Capacity of spectator stands increased to 8500 seats. Reinforced concrete plates are built in the ice surface in which 170 km cooling pipes are distributed. The system of artificial ice freezing does not have analogs worldwide and allows to maintain the ice surface of the skating rink during 8 months per year.[12]

In the course of reconstruction of high-mountain skating rink Medeo and ski mountaineering base Shymbulak near Almaty almost all infrastructure was changed implementing world level standards, the manager of project on reconstruction of the complex Slavenko Badura has declared. “During half a year it was done a lot at Medeo and Shymbulak, almost all infrastructure was changed, 20 supports of gondola lift were built at Medeo, we finish upper station at Shymbulak, S. Badura reported at press conference in Almaty. In turn the chief engineer on contract supervision of Doppelmayr company Hans-Peter Zimmerman at the same press conference reported that “active construction of gondola lift” continues for delivery of persons having a rest from Medeo till “Shymbulak”. Delivery of gondolas is taking place every 14 seconds, – he noted. Traffic capacity make up to 2 thousand persons per hour. Time on way is up to 15 minutes.” [13]

The bandy tournament at 2011 Asian Winter Games took place at Medeo from the 2nd to 6 February 2011.[14] The final was attended by President Nursultan Nazarbayev.[15]

Bandy World Championship 2012

On the main stage Medeo from 29 January to 5 February 2012 the XXXIInd Bandy World Championship took place. The right to host the WCS was given to Kazakhstan on 28 January 2011 at the regular congress of the Federation of International Bandy, held in Kazan.[16] The organizers of the event had planned that initially 15 teams would participate in the championship, but prior to the start of the tournament, Mongolian team refused from tournament due to financial difficulties. Thus, the world championship was attended by 14 teams.[17][18] In the final game, the Russian team lost to Sweden (4:5). The Kazakh team won the third place by defeating the Finland’s team (10:5).

Current use

Medeo maintains its status as one of the best-known tourist locations in Kazakhstan. The stadium is open to the public all year round, allowing visitors to skate at high altitude day or night. During night hours, skaters can enjoy music and lights in the stadium either from the ice, or from VIP boxes available for rent. While ticket prices were raised due to the reconstruction for the Asian Games, it still remains a popular destination for groups of friends or couples.[19] In addition to this, the Medeu stadium and Dam remain the destination for Almaty's International Medeu-marathon. During this event, competitors run up from the city to this famous location, climbing almost 1000 vertical meters before returning to Almaty to finish. 2011 marked the 14th year of this challenging race, with over 150 runners participating.[20]


Almaty will be the 2017 Winter Universiade host city, for which Medeo will be used for opening and closing ceremonies and also for speed skating. Bandy was supposed to debut as a demonstration sport.[21] However, after tightening of the budget, bandy is no longer part of the programme[22] and has to wait until 2019.[23]

Almaty was unsuccessfully bidding to organise the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. If the city was selected, a roof would have been needed to be built over the Medeo stadium in order for it to be used for the speed skating event, a requirement for speed skating in the Olympic Games.[24]

Hurricane damage in 2011

Two deadly hurricane-force wind attacks happened in Almaty in July 2011 and caused serious damage to the city itself and to the national park in particular, sweeping down thousands of century-old pine trees, once the pride of the Medeu National Park. Local scientists from the National Park estimate that full restoration of the vegetation to the pre-hurricane condition may take several decades.[25]



Some content on this page was translated from the Russian language page on this subject. Template:Reflist


  • Bijlsma, Hedman with Tom Dekkers; Alex Dumas; Arie van Erk; Gé du Maine; Hans Niezen and Karel Verbeek. Schaatsseizoen '77–'78: 6e Jaargang, statistische terugblik. Steenwijk, the Netherlands, November 1978.

External links

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