Lit by pulsing strobe lights, the stage was set for athletes representing their countries to introduce their flags to the cheering crowd at the Kazan IFMA World Cup. Time for the first steps on the Road to Wroclaw for some of our athletes as the battle for places at The World Games continues.
But first a colourful cultural trip across continents from Thailand to the heart of Russia through music and dance.
Opening the ceremony were dancers from the famous Muaythai Live in Bangkok. Using the ancient form of our sport known as Muay Boran dating back over 1,000 years, they told the story of how muaythai carries power and strength through the ages. Using green and blue lights to signify the passing of time, you could hear gasps as they appeared to throw fearsome punches, but of course it’s all carefully choreographed.
Dancers from the steppes of the Republic of Tatarstan followed, wearing their traditional hats and shirts. They threw themselves into the air as if weightless, hanging gracefully at the apex of every jump and thrilling the crowd as they went ever higher.
A quiet moment then for the State Chamber Choir led by Renata Talypova to appear out of the darkness to the side of the stage, and sing the haunting muaythai anthem: “We are muaythai”. The lyrics embody what this tournament is all about, especially the lines: “We are the art of heart and body, Muaythai pride and honour we embody.”
The whole ceremony was shown live on Russian TV, and streamed live internationally so everyone at home could follow the experiences of their friends and family.
More dancers rounded out the spectacular extravaganza, before it was time to stirring music for the athletes to march down. They lined the stage on both sides, stretching back into the wings but we fitted them all on!
The World Cup was officially opened by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Repubic of Tatarstan Shaikhraziev Vasil Gayazovich. He warmly welcomed everyone to Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan. And said from what he had already seen muaythai was a fitting addition to the strong sporting tradition of this fine city.
Kazan has a long sporting tradition, having played host to the 2013 Summer Universiade and many, many other events, he said.
Also present on the stage was Olga Ivanovna Pavlova, a member of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan. IFMA general secretary Stephan Fox said the final bell at this tournament will begin the Road to Wroclaw for 11 athletes, and he wished everyone well on their journey.
He thanked the government of the Russian Federationa, the Republic of Tatarstan and the Russian Muaythai Federation for making this fantastic event possible. And sadly he also led the hall in a minute of silence to mark the recent passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13th.
This is the first time Kazan has hosted an IFMA event, but taking part in this spectacular opening many expressed a desire to return again already! And so the World Cup is now officially begun, with many athletes already taking part in their first bouts.