CMW editor Paul Colston spoke at the recent MICE Day in the Urals event, in Ekaterinburg, and then explored the region’s particular sporting offer for events.
Ekaterinburg is probably most famous as the place where the last Tsar and his family were shot. It is also the home city of Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Federation’s first President.
Now the Urals industrial powerhouse city is leading a charge into the MICE arena, with a nice sideline in sporting venues.
The recent Urals Region #MICEDay event gathered industry professionals from home and abroad, who got to see first-hand how Russia’s fourth biggest city is reaching for the skies in many ways – not least as the new home for skyscraper technology and construction (check out the Vysotsky Tower which also houses a hotel).
Russia’s first President’s legacy is firmly in place at the Yeltsin Centre, a sort of shopping mall meets museum and conference centre.
Just a few metres walk from the Hyatt Regency, the Yeltsin Centre certainly provides a talking point and is an evocative backdrop to any event, not least because one of the former President’s limos sits parked inside the entrance.
For five-star clients, The Atrium Palace, is available and has a conference hall able to host 200 delegates theatre style.
The Ekaterinburg Arena was one of Russia’s host venues for the successful FIFA World Cup in 2018 and a tour of the facility includes a chance to sit on the locker room seat used by Paul Pogba.
With Russian football crowds unlikely to fill even half of the 45,000-seater stadium on a regular basis, events will be a big part of the Arena’s future business plan.
There is a huge appetite for martial arts in Russia, including judo, jujitsu, boxing, Russian SAMBO and Graeco-Roman wrestling, and the Russian Copper Company (RCC) has invested big in a five-storey Ekaterinburg Martial Arts Academy.
Practice and training was in full swing when I dropped by and a boxing belt donated by Mike Tyson takes pride of place in the inner sanctum. It sits next to a conference space which doubles as an MMA ‘cage’.
A short drive from the city centre can bring you to the 250-hectare Pine Creek golf centre which also has meetings and events space, including a beautiful terrace. It offers a swish venue and experience for incentives delegates wishing to get a taste of Urals Big Nature while maybe shooting a few holes at a club designed by British architect Paul Thomas.
New Russia means golf and yacht clubs, and The Urals Yacht Club Komatek, with its ‘Drop Anchor’ restaurant, back in the city, is a new venture on the shores of a reservoir. It provides a base for training future Olympians as well as hosting international meetings, both on the water and in its adjoining hotel.
The complex has teambuilding offers allied to rent of smaller meetings spaces, all tacking towards very reasonable rates.
If all that sporting activity leaves you a little tired, then you can recharge in one of the many restaurants or cafes in the city, all at prices well below West European levels.
In the Urals you can also dip your feet, literally, into Asia, as the region straddles the border between Europe and Asia. I advise a trip out to Berezovsky, too, the birthplace of Russian gold mining. You can pan for gold and go down the mine itself.
When your fighting spirit returns, you can visit the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company Museum of Military and Civilian Vehicles and its 5,700 exhibits. A must-see for anyone interested in tanks and planes.
For those thinking big in the congress market, then the IEC Ekaterinburg Expo, with 100,000sqm of events space, is the largest such complex in the Urals. There is a new pavilion and the centre hosted the Urals MICE Day. The city’s World Trade Center offers a smaller, high-class conference venue.
One barrier, I guess, to visiting the Urals – gateway to Siberia – is flight access. But, for unique experiences and a taste of the real Russian hinterland, you’d be a bad sport for not wanting to investigate at least.