The Medeu is an outdoor speed skating and bandy rink. It is located in a mountain valley (Medeu Valley, or the valley of Malaya Alma-Atinka River) on the south-eastern outskirts of Almaty, Kazakhstan. Medeu sits 1,691 meters above sea level. Although it calls itself "The Highest Skating Rink in the World", some rinks such as the Stephen C.
West Ice Arena in Breckenridge, Colorado (elevation 3,445 meters (11,302 ft)) are located at significantly higher elevations. It has 10.5 thousand square meters of ice and utilizes a sophisticated freezing and watering system to ensure the quality of the ice. The mountain valley was named in honor of Medeo, a wanderer who lived in the last century and established own aul in this picturesque.
Construction of the stadium began in the fall of 1949, and the first competition took place at the stadium on 4 February 1951. Medeu switched to its current system of artificial ice in 1972 by a team of Soviet engineers.
The Medeu Dam, built in the late 1960s, stands immediately south of the skating rink, protecting it – and the city of Almaty itself – from potentially devastating mud flows. Viewpoints on top of the dam provide great views of the stadium. The dam has 3 successive altitude levels. Special water reservoir allows holding about 6 million cubic meters of water. Stairs known to city inhabitants and tourists consisting of 842 steps leads to the dam. Contests on Ascension along this unique stairs are regularly carried out.
Medeu has seen many world records in all the speed skating distances from 1951 until the 1980s: 500 m, 1000 m, 1500 m, 3000 m, 5000 m, and the 10000 m. In 1972, the rink made a very successful transition from the natural ice rink to the artificial ice rink.
The bandy team Dynamo Alma-Ata played its home games at Medeu and won the Soviet Championships in 1977 and 1990 and the European Cup in 1978.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the costs to uphold the arena as a top ice rink proved too expensive for the independent Republic of Kazakhstan. The last great championship event for a long time on this ice rink was held in 1988—the Men's World Speed Skating Championship—which was won by the American skater Eric Flaim.
In the early years of the 2000s, Medeo's future status as a competition rink was uncertain. However, it was proposed as the speed skating venue both for Almaty's unsuccessful bid for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and the successful one for the 2011 Asian Winter Games. In the end, bandy was the only sport here during the Games. Speed skating was held at Alau Ice Palace in Astana. Medeo was the main arena of the 2012 Bandy World Championship.
Several years in succession (1990–2004) the ice skating rink turned into the large concert ground where the popular international music festival “Voice of Asia” (“Azia Dauysy”) was carried out in which not only Kazakhstan performers but also variety stars from all over the world take part.
Medeo maintains its status as one of the best-known tourist locations in Kazakhstan. The stadium is open to the public all year round, allowing visitors to skate at high altitude day or night. During night hours, skaters can enjoy music and lights in the stadium either from the ice or from VIP boxes available for rent. While ticket prices were raised due to the reconstruction for the Asian Games, it still remains a popular destination for groups of friends or couples. In addition to this, the Medeu Stadium and Dam remain the destination for Almaty's International Medeu-marathon.
During this event, competitors run up from the city to this famous location, climbing almost 1000 vertical meters before returning to Almaty to finish. 2011 marked the 14th year of this challenging race, with over 150 runners participating.
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