For almost a whole week, from 12 to 18 August, participants at the XXVIII International Olympiad in Informatics will put their talents to the test in a fierce battle of intellects. But it goes without saying that they won’t simply be programming from dawn to dusk.
A varied, educational programme of culture and entertainment has been drawn up for participants, team leaders and guests at the Olympiad, and starts from day one. Participants and guests staying at the Universiade Village will be able to take part in tennis, swimming, football and volleyball competitions, as well as other sports. In addition, they will be able to test their wits on educational computer games at the KFU IT-lyceum. The day will finish with a concert.
The following day will see PE replaced with history, as Olympiad participants will be taken on a sightseeing tour of Kazan (team leaders will have the chance to do this tour on the next day), while guests will take a tour of the Conservation-Museum Complex of the Kazan Kremlin (as will team leaders in three days’ time). There’s plenty to see here: situated where the Volga river meets the white walls of the Kremlin, the complex is the oldest part of our city. Archaeologists have discovered artefacts here which allow us to trace the city of Kazan back to the 11th century, and many more believe a settlement existed here 100 years earlier still. Much about its early history is evident in the layout of the Kazan Kremlin Complex.
The Kazan Kremlin has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. It is home to museum exhibitions such as the Tatarstan statehood history exhibition as well as programmes devoted to natural history, Islamic culture, the Cannon Courtyard, the history of the Cathedral of Annunciation and the Second World War (from the National Museum RT fund), and also an art gallery (from the Museum of Fine Art RT fund), the Manezh exhibition hall Hermitage-Kazan Centre.
Guests will also be able to visit the Tugan Avylym national culture complex for an interactive show. Participants can sing along with Tatar folksongs, learn the national dances and indulge in some traditional cooking, and enjoy the Tatar experience.
There is also a tour of the Raifa Bogoroditsky Monastery, founded in the 17th century and still functioning today, with architecture typical of the time. Participants will also have a chance to visit the Raifa Forestry Arboretum, situated in the Volzhsko-Kamsky Conservation Area.
Visitors will be able to further acquaint themselves with the centuries-old history of Tatarstan with an excursion to the historical island-town of Sviyazhsk, a living museum of history, architecture and art situated at the confluence of the Sviyaga and Volga Rivers, and the historical-architectural conservation site of Bulgar. Sviyazhsk started as a wooden fortress built in 1551 (the entire project was completed in all of four weeks) near the town of Uglich to the north-west, before being dismantled in its entirety and reassembled more than 700 km down river at its current location.
This powerfully-fortified bastion became a base from which Russian troops laid siege to Kazan in 1552. The Sviyazhsk Bogoroditse-Uspensky Monastery was founded there in 1555 and is still an active monastery today, as well as also serving as a museum complex. Various events are also held here, including the Night of the Museums, the Sviyazhsk Cup Open Archery Tournament for the Republic of Tatarstan, among others.
The island will introduce guests to some traditional Russian culture. With the homely aromas of ukha and coulebiaca floating on the breeze, an archery master-class will teach participants to loosen an arrow at a target. On the boat journey back to Kazan guests will be treated to demonstrations of traditional handicrafts: passengers will learn the secrets of pottery, doll-making and even weaving rope on a spindle.
Bulgar (near the town of Bolgar) was home to one of the centres of Turkic governance in the 10th-13th centuries: Volga Bulgaria. Many architectural monuments are preserved in Bulgar to this day, as well as historical artefacts ranging from prized possessions to everyday items of the time. These finds were of such great archaeological value that in 2014, Bulgar was granted UNESCO World Heritage Status. These days the site houses a museum complex with a wealth of exhibits showing how the people there used to live, including accurate reconstructions of functional wind- and watermills, reconstructed houses, and even a bread museum.
For those wishing to dive headfirst into the atmosphere of the 14th century there will be a chance to visit the Festival of Great Bolgar, where guests can witness knightly single combat, archery and equestrian competitions and even a large battle re-enactment. Here merchants from the Middle-Ages tout their wares and dancers and musicians put their talent on display, before events are rounded off with a spectacular fire show. All performers are keen to share their skills with the public.
Also on the lists of places to visit is Yelabuga, one of the oldest settlements in Tatarstan, a place which like Kazan boasts a thousand-year history and is now a large industrial, cultural and tourism centre. Many famous names are connected to the town: it is the birthplace of the famous painter Ivan Shishkin, world-famous psycho-neurologist Vladimir Bekhterev, and Russia’s first ever female military officer and Napoleonic War veteran Nadezhda Durova.
Yelabuga is the home of Durova’s country manor, now a museum, as well as the former houses of Shishkin, Bekhterev and acclaimed poet Marina Tsvetaeva, who lived there for the last two months of her life (and has since given her name to one of the city squares). Also in the town is the Devil’s Tower, the ruins of a castle that once stood on the banks of the Kama River and was once home to one of the local peoples some time in the second half of the first millennium, and the Volga Bulgarian fortress from the 10th-13th centuries.
But that’s far from all. A tour of KFU is also planned, which will include a visit to the Kazan University History Museum, as well as a range of its structural subdivisions. And for an insight into how education in Tatarstan is being modernised, Olympiad participants and guests will be shown around the University of Innopolis, which specialises in tuition and scientific research in the field of contemporary information technology, with a view to training highly-qualified IT specialists. Situated in the Verkhneuslonskii District in the satellite town of the same name and built entirely from scratch, Innopolis is one of the newest towns in the Russian Federation. It is also one of only two science-towns in post-Soviet Russia (the other being Skolkovo, near Moscow).
To round everything off, the Olympiad closing ceremony will take place on 18 August in the Pyramid entertainment complex. Sporting competitions at the Universiade Village will run again on the following day, as will the educational computer games at the KFU IT-Lyceum, while guests and team leaders will have a chance to visit the city’s museums.