Ok admit it you’d never even heard of Kazan (or even the Republic of Tatarstan) until FINA in its infinite wisdom chose to award the 2015 World Swimming Championships to this Russian City.
So another World Champs comes around and I just can’t resist the urge to pack my Speedo bag, compete in unchartered Bingeswimming territory, obsess about whether or not I can really afford the time away from the office, or my family, and will I still fit into the kneeskin? and does it really matter if my training is a bit (well actually rather a lot) deficient?
You know how these things go, because I’ve talked about them here and here and here complete frenzy in the run up to the holiday but unusually home by midnight, and the luxury of an afternoon flight left me with a free Saturday morning to have a pre worlds haircut (admittedly a rather severe Servalan job) and collect some roubles. I was a bit worried that Marks and Spencer could only give me 250 quids worth but hey they have ATM’s don’t they?
The cheap flight to Kazan included some hidden extras like a 5 hour lay over in Heathrow and 4 hours in Moscow, I amused myself as best I could in Terminal 5 shopping and people watching, but there’s only so much boredom my threshold can take and after receiving a text from Lynne Dawson, my travelling companion for the week, to say that her flight was delayed I eventually succumbed to the call of the bar, where I was soon reeling at the 11 quid for a double G & T!
Lynne arrives with minutes to spare, we boarded and everything was going smoothly until the plane came to a halt just shy of the runway.The captain announced that he could smell burning in the cockpit and therefore he thought it might be prudent the return to terminal 5 to be diagnosed!
Eventually, after a bus ride, a new plane and a delay of two and half hours we were airborne. We breezed through Moscow, immigration and customs with enough time to spare for breakfast, and began to notice the rather subtle but tell tale signs of other swimmers, an Arena back pack, Brasil on the back of a tracksuit and a Montreal 2014 T shirt.
Our internal flight was operated by Siberian Airways a company which obviously needs to sack its marketing and branding experts as we travelled in the most nauseatingly green airplane you can imagine.
We were greeted at the baggage reclaim in Kazan by a team of Volunteers, (conscripted students) who were delightful and extremely helpful and efficiently herded everyone onto the waiting buses. 30 minutes later and after passing a rather severe security check we were deposited at the International Centre in the Athlete’s Gulag and instructed to follow a green line on the floor that led us to the first stage of accreditation.
I say first stage because what followed was quite simply pythonesque. We formed an orderly queue and waited our turn to collect our passes, it was all pretty slick, they photocopied your passport and handed over your meet accreditation, now in most other meets the process stops there but no this is Russia and I was learning fast that they are rather big on mindless bureaucracy (remember Visa process).
We were then directed to the accommodation desk where they copied our passport and directed us to the migration desk, or rather they would have except, I’d committed a cardinal sin, when I booked my accommodation it was just for me and I’d neglected to tell them that Lynne was sharing my room. We were assured that this was “no problem” and asked to wait for 5 minutes, which turned out to be closer to 25 mins but after profuse apologies and a further copy of our passports we were cleared to proceed.
In the meantime, I struck up a conversation with the three Emms (a bunch of baby masters) we were discussing where we were all staying and I mentioned that I was in the Athlete’s Gulag, leaving them completely perplexed and clearly with no clue what I was talking about. They were all born, after the fall of the Iron Curtain and looked at me as if I was nuts. God that made me feel old.
Next stop the migration desk where they fill out a form saying where we’d be staying and take a further copy of our passport. We were then directed to the accommodation management services desk, which looked distinctly like the accommodation desk where yes you’ve guessed it, our passports were copied and we were given a piece of paper and directions to our home for the week Block 22.
We were guided out of the building to a waiting electronic vehicle which whisked us to the other end of the compound and Block 22. Where we checked in and yes they took yet another copy of our passport were escorted to our room, a basic student type accommodation with ensuite.
Quickly unpacked and we caught the shuttle to the pool, where we had to collect another piece of accreditation but surprisingly the Russian Organising Committee had decided they had sufficient copies of my passport at this point so I was issued with a simple list of the events I was swimming, upon production of my event accreditation.
Now, the elite world championships was still going on when we arrived, and this was hosted in the temporary pool at Kazan Arena, whilst we (the Masters) had been relegated to the Kazan Aquatic Palace; but what an absolutely unbelievable swimming facility, being both immense and palatial and clearly living up to its name. A diving pool that must be 33 x 25m then 2 x 50 metre pool end to end. It is pretty spectacular and I’m really looking forward to competing.
Obviously too old to pull all nighters anymore.
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