On October 23, 2020 within the framework of the project for the development of cross-border sports tourism “Vector -Sport”, the Committee for Physical Culture and Sports of St. Petersburg in cooperation with the Sports Federation of South Savo, Sports Federation of South Karelia, Sports Federation of Kymenlaakso (Republic of Finland) and the Finnish regional organization Imatra Basecamp held the first international seminar on the creation of a cross-border ski cluster and the development of sports tourism between St. Petersburg and South-East Finland.
The topics discussed were dedicated to the peculiarities of the development of skiing in St. Petersburg and South-Eastern Finland, the creation of opportunities for cross-border cooperation in the development of skiing, sports tourism, infrastructure development, ways and forms of sustainable partnership in the format of a cross-border ski cluster. The seminar was attended by representatives of executive bodies of state power, skiing organizations and the tourism sector of border regions. The St. Petersburg partners were led by Nikolai Rastvortsev, First Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Physical Culture and Sports. The Finnish delegation was represented by the regional directors for sports development of South Karelia (Sakari Pusenius), South Savo (Mari Makkonen) and Kymenlakso (Tomi Lehtinen) Welcoming words were made by Elena Anatolyevna Budanova, Head of the Winter Sports Department of the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation, who emphasized that “cross-border clusters are an innovative element of cooperation that ensures the dynamic and sustainable development of cross-border regions”. According to her opinion, “cross-border cooperation will help to increase interest in this sport, involve more people in physical education on the fresh air, and help raise healthy children”. Ekaterina Viktorovana Yurlova-Perkht became a special guest of honor of this seminar. Russian biathlete, world champion in the individual race, silver medalist of the world mass start championship greeted all the participants of the seminar and outlined the key areas of cooperation that need to be developed within the framework of the cross-border ski cluster. “Among the areas of such cooperation can be sports of the highest achievements, mass and youth skiing, as well as new technologies in education, training of a sports reserve and coaching staff. During the so-called“ new reality ”that is developing on our eyes, sport can become the bridge that will further connect our countries to promote the values of a healthy lifestyle, fairplay, development and strengthening of friendly and partnership relations, ”noted Ekaterina Viktorovna Yurlova-Perkht. Further, the work program was divided into two parts by presentations of opportunities for cooperation in different areas of skiing between Russia and Finland. Thus, the organization for the development of sports tourism in the region of Imatra, Imatra Basecamp, represented by its General Director, Jukka Aalikko, presented the Ukonniemi sports cluster, which has all the necessary infrastructure for holding mass sports events, training camps and thematic sports activities. The first snow trail is a feature and hallmark of this region. The first snow ski track opens in October, thanks to the fact that the first ski track is being built from last year’s snow. It is gathered every spring and stored until autumn to build the first ski track of the season. The length of the ski track is about five kilometers. Traditionally, it is built from the Ukonniemi Stadium to the Imatran Kylpylä Hotel. The ski track is used for training and competition by professional athletes, so it is kept in perfect condition throughout the season. The local ski club Imatran Urheilijat has been operating in the Imatra region for over 80 years. The club now has about 400 members and 200 athletes. During the year, the club organizes more than 10 regular sports events of various levels. The South Savo region was represented by two massive cross-country skiing events: Savonia Hiihto and Lipposhihto that provide ski lovers great opportunities to compete with professionals and amateurs, enjoy the Finnish landscape and try local delicacies. Finally, the Repovesti National Park presented holiday programs for the whole family, where each member can find something to do with their interests. Beautiful nature, well-developed infrastructure and a variety of accommodation options attract active travelers for skiing, snowshoeing and admiring the nature of the region. The St. Petersburg side gathered the professional skiing community represented by the Sports Federations in cross-country skiing and biathlon, sports schools for winter sports and skiing, as well as the professional training center “Kavgolovo”. During the presentations, the Finnish colleagues learned about the peculiarities of training the sports reserve, the possibilities of the infrastructure for the training process and the organization of sports events. Skiing in St. Petersburg is organized at a very professional level that aimed at preparing athletes for the national teams of Russia. Olympic champions, world champions and prize-winners of various international competitions are the local heroes and demonstrate the results of the work of all the scientific and technical base and the coaching staff of the city. All participants at this meeting expressed confidence that such event provides a good opportunity for the development of professional and friendly relations, allows to exchange experiences, make optimistic plans for the future and jointly develop skiing in the cross-border region.