World Gymnaestrada Helsinki a ‘huge success’

Helsinki, July 17, 2015: When the curtain falls on the 15th World Gymnaestrada at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium on Saturday, the Finnish capital and its inhabitants will bid farewell to their 17,000 international guests who have filled the city’s streets and event venues with their energy, joy and enthusiasm during the past week.

We will look back on seven days full of Gymnastics performances, participation activities, a festive ambiance and lots of happy, smiling faces. The World Gymnaestrada, the largest international non-competitive Gymnastics festival and the International Gymnastics Federation’s (FIG) Gymnastics for All quadrennial flagship event, is not only about Gymnastics displays, but also cultural exchange of its international participants, about creating new friendships and having fun together. If you have seen the groups of gymnasts walking around Helsinki during thepast week or if you have had the chance to attend one of the many performances that took place in 15 different venues in the city, you will have understood what the famous Gymnaestrada spirit is about. Chances are high that the spark has leapt over!

“The event is a huge success,” said Margaret Sikkens Ahlquist (SWE), President of the FIG Gymnastics for All Committee. “I am especially happy with the high number of nearly 21,000 participants that have made their way to Helsinki to live this World Gymnaestrada experience. With the difficult financial situation in the world this is not granted.”

“I highly appreciate the work of the Local Organising Committe,” Sikkens Ahlquist continued. “They have overcome tough challenges with regards to logistics in order to make this big event run smoothly. The system in place has proved to work very well, with security, police, embassies, and the medical service all cooperating perfectly. We have only had 492 medical issues, which is a very low number for such an event. Three times the ambulance had to be called and there was only one case that had to be transmitted to the hospital. We only had minor injuries, nothing serious.”

With regards to the Gymnastics Group Performances at the Messukeskus Expo and Convention Centre, Sikkens Ahlquist reports of a very high level of Gymnastics, with great variety and quality to the productions. “To me quality means that each gymnast performs at his or her own level. From junior to senior, fully able-bodied or with disabilities, from basic Gymnastics movements to high-level techniques, this is Gymnastics for All, and the audience appreciates the full variety of displays.”

Large Group performances, a type of Gymnastics with a long tradition in the host country, have increased in quality since the last World Gymnaestrada, according to Sikkens Ahlquist. “These performances are very difficult to create,” she said. “Choreographers must have special skills to bring it all together, and the participants accept time-consuming preparations. But in the end, we only see happy performers on the field.”

Reflecting on the newly introduced elements at the Helsinki World Gymnaestrada, including the National Afternoons, Midnight Sun Special and World Team Large Group Performance, Sikkens Ahlquist stated: “We want the World Gymnaestrada to develop, and we encourage the organisers to come up with new ideas that our committee then evaluates and decides on their inclusion. While the format of the National Afternoons needs some adjustment, the Midnight Sun Special and the World Team were very successful. This is how we will remember Finland. Endless summer days with more than two thousand gymnasts from 35 different countries performing together in the Olympic Stadium. Fantastic!”

“On behalf of the FIG and the Gymnastics for All Committee I warmly thank the Local Organising Committee and the City of Helsinki for hosting us and for a great cooperation in the preparation and organisation of the World Gymnaestrada,” Sikkens Ahlquist concludes. “And thank you Finland for the extra hours of sunlight that made our enjoyment last even longer this week!” —- FIG

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