Europe's volleyball elite to celebrate final showdown in Siberia
Though it is not as cold as people may assume – temperatures stand slightly below zero – the teams that are finding their way to Omsk will nevertheless get familiar with a purely Siberian landscape, with loads of snow, icy or slippery roads, and a somehow fascinating mix of Soviet architecture and more modern constructions.
The city is host to a women’s volleyball club – Omichka – which this year made it to the semis of the 2013 CEV Volleyball Cup but actually what people here are literally fond of is ice hockey. The local heroes of Avangard were able to seize Russia’s national league some 10 years ago and that team – alongside very profitable contracts – attracted in the past the likes of world-class players such as legendary Czech wing player Jaromir Jagr or members of Finland’s and Slovakia’s national teams.
The Sports and Concert Complex that will be hosting the Final Four bears the name of another ice hockey superstar, Viktor Blinov, an Olympic champion in 1968 who prematurely died of a heart attack aged 22, but is also home to a figure skating club named after one of the most decorated athletes of all time, i.e. triple Olympic champion in pair skating Irina Rodnina.
Short track speed skating is another popular discipline in this neighbourhood but this weekend the local sports enthusiasts will enjoy the almost unique opportunity to see Europe’s volleyball elite in action. The hosts of Lokomotiv Novosibirsk will be the major attraction as many supporters are set to travel overnight – for some eight hours – from Siberia’s largest city to cheer on their heroes from the stands. The authorities of Omsk as well as of the Omsk region have been very keen to welcome the Final Four as this is likely to turn into a major highlight for the whole Siberian Federal District.
A major hub for transporting raw materials along the well-known Transsiberian route, Omsk is also the very first city – coming from Russia’s European side – where McDonalds has not yet appeared. If fast food is not a priority here, still volleyball is drawing much attention as more than 150 journalists have been accredited for the weekend while billboards advertising the Final Four are to be seen bordering the main streets of this city that has got a population of around 1.2 million.
On Thursday, Lokomotiv Novosibirsk could test for the first time the court of the sports hall as they practiced constantly monitored by their mentor Andrey Voronkov. Their main standout, Swede Marcus Nilsson, looked in good shape and will try to turn into the local “matador” for the much awaited semifinal derby with last year’s winners of Zenit Kazan.
Poland’s Zaksa Kedzierzyn-Kozle has also arrived in Omsk as the players captained by Pawel Zagumny are trying to adjust to the local conditions but most of all to the time difference – six hours – with Central Europe before they take on Italy’s Bre Banca Lannutti Cuneo in the second semi.
On Friday a press conference will take place at 1pm (local time) to officially set the tone for the weekend that will crown Europe’s volleyball kings and determine the side to represent the “Old Continent” at the 2013 FIVB Club World Championships coming up later this year.