The aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg will take place in the Peterburgsky arena on Gagarina Avenue. It's a very impressive building, bigger than any dojo you ever came across.
In addition to the aikido demonstrations, it's also the place for competitions in kendo, judo, wrestling, sumo, and fencing. Its huge space has been cleverly divided into three stages. The aikido stage, with a large number of spectator seats, will also be used for judo and wrestling – at separate days, of course.
Fencing, appearing for the first time in the World Combat Games, has its own stage with room for seven simultaneous fencing matches. The stage for sumo will be swiftly rebuilt to house the kendo competition, once sumo is over.
We got a tour together with one of the major Russian organizers, who told us that the sumo representatives were afraid that the stands for medalists did not seem sturdy enough to carry the weight necessary, but they need not worry. It has been tested and found to manage 600 kilos, which should suffice. The organizers even went through the trouble of going to the World Games in Colombia recently, to have the medalist stands tested.
They also have medalist stands for team medals, nine meters across.
We were also told that the tatami, the mats, used both for the stage of the aikido demonstrations and the big warm-up area behind the scenes, are made in China. They are not that soft, so the aikidoka who are to be thrown around on them should make sure to do a proper warm-up...
The arena is decorated in a warm theme of colors: mainly brilliant red and yellow. Those fiery colors are in line with what is sort of a motto for the event: The St. Petersburg weather may be increasingly chilly, but it will be hot in the arena! That's for sure.
On the arena as well as on the hotel for the participants and even on the airport, there are lots of hard-working young volunteers, from schools all over Russia. They are gleaming of enthusiasm, hurrying to contribute to the success of the event – making sure that its temperature will be far above what's the case outdoors.
Late this Friday evening, the Opening Ceremony will take place in the Ice Palace. Most of the athletes will arrive tonight and on Saturday. We will keep you updated.