Category Archives: Sports

“What the Hell Is Tajikistan?” “Why Do They Even Exist?”

Years ago I worked for a UN agency in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. My boss at the organization often said that her main task was to “put Tajikistan on map”. She complained that people and organizations in the West willing to fund charity projects were reluctant to give their money to Tajikistan, mainly because most of them could not even tell whether the country was real.

Very little has changed since then.

Therefore, I understand why Tajikistan is sending a handful of athletes to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Although these athletes don’t have a slightest chance of winning medals, they are sent to Sochi precisely to “put Tajikistan on a map” (as well as to justify the Tajik president’s trip there). Millions of people around the world watch opening ceremonies for the Olympics. The ceremonies, featuring the various countries’ national teams walking behind their national flags, offer the little-known nations like Tajikistan an opportunity to tell the rest of the world that they exist.

The opening ceremony for this year’s Winter Olympics gave me an opportunity to monitor people’s online reactions to watching team Tajikistan enter the Sochi stadium. Below are just some of the most typical reactions, in English and some other languages (in cases when I could understand the meaning). These tweets show that Tajikistan is still an obscure “one-of-those-stans” or “it-is-Russia-right?” countries for most people in western countries.
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Russian Commentator Mistakes Uzbekistan for Tajikistan at Olympics Opening Ceremony

tjuzb-200x200A renowned Russian sports commentator mistook Uzbekistan’s national team for that of Tajikistan in a live broadcast from the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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Football Game in Tajikistan Ends in Massive Brawl

A football match in the northern Tajik town of Istaravshan had to be abandoned after a massive brawl broke out on the pitch. This post rounds up netizen reactions to the incident. Read on Global Voices Online >>

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Tajikistan’s ‘Million Dollar Baby’ Hangs Up Her Gloves

Mavzuna Chorieva, Tajikistan’s “Million Dollar Baby” has decided to be “like everyone else” and left the boxing ring to get married and have a child.

The female boxer who brought the country its only medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, has married and hung up her gloves, at least for a year. While many people in the country are happy for Chorieva, some have been disappointed over her decision. Read on Global Voices Online >>

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Tajik Opposition Party Vows to Reward Olympic Medallists

On May 21, Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of the opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) announced that his party will reward Tajik athletes who bring home medals from the forthcoming Summer Olympic Games in London. Each medalist will receive a one-bedroom apartment in the country’s capital Dushanbe. Such an apartment can cost anything between US$ 30,000 and US$ 80,000. According to Kabiri, the move aims to support the country’s athletes who manage to achieve results at high-performance international competitions despite limited financial assistance from the government. “Our main goal in offering to reward Olympic success is to support the nation’s sportsmen and to call on other individuals, political parties, and organizations to follow suit,” he said. “Tajik athletes should receive all the support they need because they represent our country and build its image. I will be happy if this also helps to strengthen our party’s image.”

IRPT’s decision to reward potential Olympic medalists has obvious political objectives. In Tajikistan, sports remain severely underfunded and even the top performing athletes often struggle to make ends meet. Therefore, by offering incentives to the Olympians, Central Asia’s only Islamic party aims to demonstrate its willingness to do tangible things for the country. Kabiri appears certain to become IRPT’s candidate for the presidential elections next year. Earning additional public support will help him in challenging the incumbent president, Emomali Rahmon, who will seek reelection for another seven-year term in 2013.

The authorities have also promised handsome cash rewards for Olympic medals. In January, President Rahmon announced that the government will pay the country’s Olympians 300,000 somoni (US$ 63,000) for gold; 250,000 somoni (US$ 52,500) for silver, and 200,000 somoni (US$ 42,000) for bronze medals. The mayor of Dushanbe has also offered one-bedroom apartments for each gold medal; 45,000 somoni (US$ 9,400) for silver, and 35,000 somoni (US$ 7,300) for Olympic bronze. In addition, Tajikistan’s largest private bank, Oriyonbonk, which is owned by a relative of Rahmon’s, has promised that each Tajik medalist in London will receive a luxury car.
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