SPORT a conde nast publication / JUNE 2015
EUROPEAN GAMES SPECIAL ISSUE
POWER PLAY P58
THIS SPORTING LIFE P78
EASY RIDERS P96
EVENING STARS P118
FLEX APPEAL P132
FLIGHT OF FANCY P148
LEYLA ALIYEVA, PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALAN GELATI.
port gives more joy to humanity than almost any other endeavour. To the countless millions who watch, cheer and hope, it is a release, an inspiration – and a fantastic way to spend your spare time. To the participants themselves, it is an almost unimaginable blend of aspiration, inspiration, sweat, toil and intensity. That’s why I’m enormously proud that our country, Azerbaijan, is hosting the inaugural European Games in Baku this year. The experience of seeing top athletes from across the continent competing for medals will be wonderful for all involved. This special issue of Baku magazine is devoted not only to the European Games, but to sport in general. On the principle that artistic photography is the best way of conveying the tension, expectation and trepidation of participants before the events, we have some searingly intense photographic features on Azerbaijan’s wrestling and cycling teams, plus gymnasts from around Europe, as they all prepare to go for gold. Sport is a theme in many aspects of life, from fashion to art, and the content elsewhere in this issue refects that. I hope the magazine is a worthwhile guide and distraction (in the best possible sense) for you in this spectacular sporting season. Leyla Aliyeva Editor-in-Chief
GAME ON EASY RIDERS
And they’re of! All that training comes down to this moment.
Azerbaijan’s mountain bike squad makes light work of Zaha Hadid’s architectural slopes in Baku.
THE ART OF CONCEALMENT 110 It looks so easy when you see elite athletes compete. UNDER STARTER’S ORDERS But don’t be fooled, not for one minute.
It’s all about Team Fashion as brands compete to put out catwalk-worthy sportswear collections.
PLAY TIME 118 When you’re ready to hit the water, the piste or the trail, EVENING STARS here’s where to get your gear in Europe.
We take to the skies over Baku at dusk to capture the glittering city and its new sporting arenas.
THE ITALIAN JOB 132 A Tuscan inspiration for the Azerbaijan team uniforms. FLEX APPEAL 42
Gymnastics is hard on the mind and the body, but the medal prospects keep these young women focused.
PHYSICAL ATTRACTION 146 BAKU CITY GUIDE
This high-fashion kit is almost too beautiful to use.
Our pick of what the city has to ofer during the Games.
GAME CHANGERS 148 FLIGHT OF FANCY
From materials to design to marketing, sportswear is becoming a serious fashion player thanks to these visionaries.
The sweeping glazed vaults and cosy wooden cocoons of Baku’s new airport terminal make it a traveller’s temple.
NOBODY DOES IT BETTER 158 THE NEXT GENERATION
British GQ’s editor-in-chief, Dylan Jones, on why sports stars are the new celebrities.
Passing on the fame may be the most important aspect of any Olympic Games, as London 2012 proved.
POWER PLAY 165 KING IS QUEEN
Behind the scenes with Azerbaijan’s wrestling team, as they prepare for the next fght.
Track cyclist and gold-winning Olympian Dani King shows us what it takes to reign as an elite athlete.
THANKS FOR THE MEMORY 166 THE RACE IS WON
We ask fve people, all stars in their respective felds, for their defning sporting memories.
Simon Clegg tells us what it has been like being in charge of organizing the frst European Games.
THIS SPORTING LIFE 168 LUCKY CHARMS
Fashion gets playful this season with high-tech fabrics and clean lines.
Meet Nar and Jeyran, the ofcial – and rather cute – mascots of the European Games.
WE COULD BE HEROES
Sports stars are worshipped the world over but sometimes they can really test our loyalty. It’s almost like being in love.
COVER. The new Olympic Stadium in Baku, photographed by GILES PRICE.
PUBLISHED TO MARK THE INAUGURAL EUROPEAN GAMES, BAKU, AZERBAIJAN. JUNE 2015
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CONDE NAST ART DIRECTOR MANAGING EDITOR DEPUTY EDITOR/CHIEF SUB-EDITOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
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BAKU magazine has taken all reasonable eforts to trace the copyright owners of all works and images and obtain permissions for the works and images reproduced in this magazine. In the event that any of the untraceable copyright owners come forward after publication, BAKU magazine will endeavour to rectify the position accordingly. BAKU magazine is distributed globally by COMAG Specialist, Tavistock Works, Tavistock Road, West Drayton, Middlesex, UB7 7QX; tel +44 1895 433800. © 2015 The Condé Nast Publications Ltd. Vogue House, Hanover Square, London W1S 1JU, United Kingdom; tel +44 20 7499 9080; fax +44 20 7493 1469. Colour origination by CLX Europe Media Solutions Ltd. Printed by Pureprint Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited.
Contributors Paul Calver
is a sports documentary, fashion and portrait photographer, based in London. What is your favourite sport and why? Cycling – it’s a good way to get out and about and clear the mind. If I wasn’t a photographer, I’d be… A professional cyclist, but I’m not sure I’ve got the skills or patience for it! Hit the treadmill or pound the pavements? Treadmill, but mainly for the post-run sauna. What did you learn about mountain biking from your shoot (p96)? That it’s something I’d love to have a proper go at when I have time.
is the editor-in-chief of British GQ, the editor-in-chief of GQ Sport and the chairman of London Collections Men. What is your favourite sport and why? Predictably, I like football, rugby and tennis. Actually, that’s not quite true – like every other British tennis fan, I love Wimbledon. If I wasn’t a magazine editor, I’d be… Managing Manchester United (and doing a better job). Do you think sports stars make better celebrities than actors (p56)? Many sports stars are certainly more focused, and tend to talk less nonsense…
is a London-based documentary and portrait photographer. What is your favourite sport and why? Boxing. I box myself and love the discipline and training of the sport. If I wasn’t a photographer, I’d be… A boxer …in another life! Is it the winning or the taking part that matters most? While I understand the need to take part, there is nothing like winning. The wrestlers look tough – what were they like in real life (p58)? Watching them train showed their strength and ftness. At rest, you could see their close friendship.
is a stylist and features writer. She divides her time between London and New York. What is your favourite sport and why? Tennis. It’s so elegant to watch, and the men are always the best looking. If I wasn’t a stylist, I’d be… Designing ‘athleisure-wear’ – a real growth sector and very practical for busy modern women! Hit the treadmill or pound the pavements? I’d rather be walking in remote countryside or doing gyrotonics in Manhattan. What’s your view on sportswear infuencing fashion (p78)? It never goes out of fashion and injecting a sportier touch is the one way to give something a contemporary spin.
is a prize-winning British photographer and former Marine. What is your favourite sport and why? Running. And mountaineering, because it pushes mankind forward in so many ways. If I wasn’t a photographer, I’d be… A mountaineer. Is it the winning or the taking part that matters most? Both. What was it like shooting Baku city and the Games venues (p118) from a helicopter? It was awesome to see all the infrastructure that has been built in Baku over the past few years, since my last visit, both cultural and Games-related.
is an independent media consultant and former editor of FHM, and of Rolling Stone and Maxim in the US. He founded the digital creative agency Grand Parade in the UK. What is your favourite sport and why? After a decent Cheltenham, it’s currently horse racing. If I wasn’t a writer and editor, I’d be… A professional gambler (in my dreams). Hit the treadmill or pound the pavements? Pavements, but walking, with an audiobook. As editorial consultant on this issue, what has surprised you most? The commitment of the staff at Rapha (p48) – their passion is off the scale.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY SON OF ALAN – FOLIO ART.
A gymnast in Azerbaijanâ€™s junior team practises her foor routine ahead of the Games.
years of preparation come down to this moment. the dreams of an individual; the expectation of a nation; the hushed anticipation of the crowd. the inaugural european games are finally here, showcasing the brightest sporting talents across 20 disciplines from 50 nations. expect drama and delight, exhaustion and elation, passion and pride, as the athletes push themselves to the limit. see you at the finish line. Photograph by PETER BEAVIS
The art of concealment Don’t be fooled by the ease with which top athletes compete. It’s all an illusion, says Ed Smith. Photograph by CLIVE BRUNSKILL
by an ocean of physical suffering. Thus tennis players must move from one domain to another: from endurance athleticism to precise skill execution. That’s why grandslam tennis is the most completely diffcult thing in sport. Players must possess endurance and explosive speed, agility and power, resilience and subtlety, patience and aggression. They have to be everything, all the time. I may be biased towards my own sport, but cricket has one infamous chamber of horrors: facing a fast bowler who is on song. A hard, red leather ball is being hurled at your throat at 140kph by a 2m-tall giant. Pure, primal survival intersects with something very different: the subtle challenge of scoring runs, precisely controlling the movements of the bat in your hands. As your heart races, you try to slow down your decisionmaking. Instead of being rushed and jumpy – rattled, basically – you want to act with calmness and deliberateness. That’s the theory, anyway. In reality, it all happens pretty quickly. That is, in 0.4 of a second from the moment the ball leaves the bowler’s hand to the instant you hit it. That gives you less than 0.2 of a second to decide and initiate a response. Oh, I forgot to say: one mistake and your whole match is over. No wonder we batsmen age quickly and look at the world warily, like foxes who have spent a lifetime evading packs of bloodthirsty hounds. Taking a penalty in football really does look easy – a big goal, and only one man to beat. That’s part of the problem, especially in a penalty shoot-out: expectation is like a second goalkeeper. Expectation bricks up the goalmouth with psychological obstacles: I can’t miss, I have to score, it’s up to me. All this happens, of course, after 120 minutes of exhaustion – sprinting and tracking back, anticipating and doubleguessing, gulling and feinting. And then a penalty shoot-out. It is horrible, unjust and absolutely irresistible. And then there’s that diffcult putt for the Ryder Cup. Not so short that you can’t miss. But not so long that it is unlikely to go in. Just long enough so that the balance of probabilities rests on your side – with you, that is, but also against you. How can that
be? The more likely you are to succeed, the greater the prospect of failure. So it is with that short-ish putt. And in the Ryder Cup, of course, golf is recast as a team sport, which is uncharted territory for sportsmen conditioned for individual competition. So extreme pressure exists within the context of the unknown and becomes an unusually disorientating experience. “Protect yourself at all times.” Those are the last words a boxer hears from the referee before the frst bell. It is a reminder that boxing stands apart. In every other modern sport, there is a degree of abstraction: however aggressive the contest is in reality, it is never the athlete’s explicit intention – and certainly not the founding purpose of the sport – to knock his opponent unconscious. Boxing is the last link with sport’s primal past. Yet that terrible purity coexists with highly sophisticated athletic demands: exceptional ftness, agility, tactical subtlety and the ability to retain judgment and control while also accessing deep reserves of visceral aggression. And all at the point of exhaustion, as punches rain in on your head. Could you think clearly while fghting brutally? I doubt I could. There are always random, external factors in sport – the unpredictable blast of wind, or an incomprehensibly incompetent refereeing decision. And then there is working with animals. If normal sport isn’t hard enough, there is trying to get a horse to cooperate with your plan of jumping over enormous hurdles at high speed. From the Grand National to dressage, competitive riding requires a unique mix of bravery and empathy, decisiveness and yet openness. Transmitting reassurance to another animal amplifes the challenge. Riding is a test of emotional intelligence as well as nerve. A great athlete makes sport look so easy that we have invented a term for the illusion: the natural. But the intelligent sports fan at the European Games shouldn’t be taken in: it is much, much harder than it looks.
Ed Smith is the author of four books, most recently ‘Luck: A Fresh Look at Fortune’ (Bloomsbury). He played cricket for Kent, Middlesex and England.
lite sport is an illusion. To be great is to possess the ability to make diffcult things look deceptively easy. As a former professional cricketer who has also reported on many different sports, I’ve been on both sides of the line. Trust me. It’s harder than it looks. But some disciplines really stand out for the diffculties they put in the way of success. We are jumbling up criteria, of course, by trying to pick out the hardest sports. After all, how do you compare an endurance sport, requiring the ability to sustain and thrive on pure pain, with a predominantly skill-based sport, where control and fnesse are required? But let’s try anyway. For pure pain, the Tour de France is hard to beat. Cyclists experience a base level of pain that would terrify most professional athletes. When they ‘attack’ and charge up a climb hoping to ‘drop’ their rivals, they ascend from mere suffering to explicit agony. This lasts for hours every day, 21 days out of 24. “The Tour de France is the only sporting event,” Tour winner Sir Bradley Wiggins has said, “that goes on so long you need a haircut in the middle.” In cycling – although the terrain and tactics do change – at least the nature of the discipline is relatively constant. It is about managing pain, accessing energy, fnding your limits, staying there. Tennis players do much of that, too. Then they have to toss the ball lightly into the air and slice it with just the right amount of side-spin into a tiny corner on the other side of the net. The serve is like a putt in golf, but in tennis it has been islanded
rafael nadal, winner of
14 grand slams, shows us how itâ€™s done at the 2013 US Open.
hike or bike, surf or ski, flex those retail muscles at one of europe’s top sporting stores. Illustration by Studio Tonne
1 GANGLERI OUTFITTERS, REYKJAVIK
Meaning wanderer in Icelandic, Gangleri will set you on the right path to conquer the mountains with their range of hiking gear. outftters.is
2 NOMADEN, OSLO Scratch that travel itch at this longestablished store, which provides useful kit for expeditions but also satisfes armchair travellers with its extensive range of books. nomaden.no
3 LOOK MUM NO HANDS, LONDON In the heart of hipster London, a team of mechanics is on hand to get your bike back on the road. Best of all, you can have a cuppa (or a pie) in the cafe while you wait. lookmumnohands.com
4 SOULCYCLE BMX, AMSTERDAM What started out as a basement stockroom run by two students has become a go-to for BMX bikes, with a loyal following at their monthly bike nights and competitions. soulcycle.com
5 CITADIUM, PARIS Once sports-only, Citadium now also stocks international fashion brands such as Pull & Bear, Kulte and Pepe Jeans. For the ardent sneaker-lover, there’s a whole foor devoted to trainers. citadium.com
6 KEIRIN CYCLE CULTURE CAFE, BERLIN The frst dedicated track bike store in the world when it opened in 2004, it’s an Aladdin’s cave of new and vintage frames and parts. keirinberlin.de
7 ERICEIRA SURF & SKATE, ERICEIRA
From boards to bags, this Portuguese chain stocks some of the coolest brands in street and surf wear. Gnarly, dude. ericeirasurfshop.pt
8 BUDO INTERNATIONAL, MADRID As a publisher and retailer, they’re a trusted source of the latest in martial arts information as well as kit and equipment. budointernational.com
9 BACHTOLD SPORT, ZURICH This family-run shop has been in the same spot since 1912, so when it comes to hiking and winter sports, it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing. baechtoldsport.ch
7 8 13
10 TATRA TRADE, TATRA This small trekking shop in Poland’s Tatra mountains counts the local search and rescue team among their customers – that’s all the endorsement we need. tatratrade.com.pl
11 OVERLAND, BUDAPEST Put your best foot forward at Overland, which runs the gamut from serious hikers on long treks to casual joggers taking in the city’s stunning Margaret Island. overlandbudapest.hu
12 SUPERWHITE, LES DEUX ALPES Owned by snowboarding legend Yannick Amevet, this huge store in the famed French ski resort tests boards and hosts a local snowboarding contest. superwhitestore.com
13 REVOLT SURF SHOP, RIOLA SARDO It may not be on the beach, but this shop knows all about Sardinia’s surf scene. Boards line the walls and it stocks all the essentials. revoltsurf.com
14 EXTREME, MOSCOW Whatever sport you’re into, you’ll fnd it here. The largest sports shopping centre in the city, Extreme has more than 300 outlets selling everything from guns to billiard tables. extreme-shop.ru
15 DEEP STORE, ISTANBUL 14
This shop caters to the thriving water sports industry in Turkey, with its range of snorkels and scuba diving gear for exploring the glittering Sea of Marmara. deepstore.net
16 FAIREX, BAKU Adrenalin junkies in Baku should make a beeline for The Air and Extreme Sports Federation of Azerbaijan shop. Ice and rock climbing and mountain trekking are specialities. fairex.az
The italian job
Fashion designer ermanno scervino brings his florentine flair to the azerbaijan team uniforms.
portrait by JULIAN HARGREAVES Ermanno scervino
INTERVIEW BY FRANCESCA PEAK. LUZ PHOTO.
ver since my frst visit to Azerbaijan, I have found it to be an extraordinary country that’s continuously developing. With its deep cultural origins, it has become the ideal bridge between East and West. For the Games, I decided to create team uniforms that combine national identity with Ermanno Scervino values: uniting the excellence and glamour of Made in Italy with the traditions of this country. Baku is increasingly looking to the future, and pays great attention to the style and quality of fashion. Therefore for the uniforms, I wanted to use innovative materials, such as stretch satin, and classic craftsmanship. I have also been inspired by the patterns and styles of ancient Azerbaijani carpets – I love to collect these exquisite works of art and hope to expand my collection while I am there. Every time I go back to Baku, I fnd it more beautiful and modern, and although this happens at an incredible rate and rhythm, I can still see its past being cherished. From the favours of the local cuisine to the colours all around you there, everything expresses an intense and rich tradition – without doubt, it infuences my work.
at his company’s headquarters in Florence, Italy, with (below) his sketches for the sports tracksuits and (in blue) the outft for the ceremony parades.
physical attraction when it comes to sport, it pays to look the part. high-fashion kit will establish you as a serious player on and off the field.
slope off This is what happens when you pair the most technical skis on the slopes with the most beautiful cars in the world. Each limited-edition pair takes 10 hours to build, starting with a super lightweight cedarwood core and fnishing with a high-speed base layer, giving the skis excellent aerodynamics and shock absorption. The stainless steel edges give you mean grip on the ski run, ensuring everyone else eats your powder. zai.ch
hot wheels A luxury aesthetic meets eco-conscious design in the Urban One from Williams. The UK-based cycle manufacturer has produced a fnite number of these wooden-framed cycles using a combination of bamboo and fax fbres, which are woven into sheets and flled with resin, along with aluminium metalwork and saddle and handlebars from Brooks. They look almost too good to ride. williams-cycles.cc
surf’s up Chanel continues its firtation with sports gear this season with a limited-edition surfoard and tennis racket. Modelled by Gisele Bündchen in the Baz Luhrmann-directed No. 5 commercial, the board is made with a mix of carbon fbre and polyurethane, yet carries of its technical prowess with efortless glamour as expected from the French label. The racket is made of pure carbon and, like the surfoard, features the classic ‘CC’ logo. Just the thing to wield down at the country club. chanel.com
life cycle Man and machine come together in the pairing of French industrial designer Philippe Starck and Giro, the California-based maker of high-performance sports accessories. Their collaboration, Giro by S+ARCKBIKE, includes everything from helmets to bikes, and brings a sleek sophistication to urban cycling. giro.com
knockout For the pieces in its second ‘Celebrating Monogram’ project, Louis Vuitton has assembled an array of creative icons, including Frank Gehry and Christian Louboutin. However it’s the Karl Lagerfeld boxing capsule collection that really packs a punch: these gloves and boxinginspired shoulder bag have serious fashion heavyweight appeal. icon.louisvuitton.com
body work Berlin-based designer Johanna F Schneider (left) is no stranger to pairing high-tech and high fashion – and her frst collection of luxury sportswear for Nikelab is as covetable as it is innovative. Her key concept is how garments allow and emphasize movement, and how they interact with the body. This vision translates into serious style: the capsule collection of bras, culottes, capes, studio wraps, leggings and longsleeved tops will be equally wearable at a cocktail bar as at the yoga studio. nike.com
Reebok is the latest sportswear label to do a high-end collaboration. Partnering with Parisian fashion label Sandro, the two have come up with a contemporary spin on the classic 1990s Instapump Fury trainer. For the men’s shoes, colourways have been stripped back in favour of solid white/cream or black iterations (the latter complete with an iridescent holographic upper over the toes). The women’s versions have speckled soles and striped linings. sandroparis.com; reebok.com
COMPILED BY LAURA ARCHER, FRANCESCA PEAK AND JASON RILEY.
pump it up
Stefani Grosse Founder of Monreal LONDON
here is no established route to becoming a brand ambassador, but as good a way as any is to identify a gap in the market, launch your own product into it and start evangelizing. After a 16-year career designing high-end womenswear around the globe for brands such as Calvin Klein and Nicole Farhi, Stefanï Grosse, a fanatical, lifelong tennis player, ran out of patience. “I thought it was ridiculous. What I had to wear to do my sport was nowhere near the level of the fashion collections that I was working on. A lot of it was polyester. It wasn’t fattering, didn’t support women’s bodies and it smelled.” The initial response to her concept for Monreal London, a chic women’s sportswear brand that combines athletic performance with a fashion design sensibility, was one commonly heard by innovators: “Are you crazy?” Nonetheless, she launched in 2012 with a fve-word mantra: luxury, performance, function, innovation and lifestyle. “They thought no one would pay $500 for a tennis dress. But if a woman pays the equivalent or more for her fashion and she wants to look good at her country club, then she is going to pay for it and get good quality that’s uniquely designed and performs well.” Grosse marketed Monreal London as a fashion brand, rather than as sportswear. “We went to Vogue frst, not Tennis magazine.” Three years on, many of the world’s prestige department stores now stock the label. It also thrives online: “The launch of Net-A-Sporter last year broke the ice for us.” And the future? A women’s golf range and ftness crossover products are planned, plus an e-commerce site. But most of all, Grosse wants to be “one of the pioneer brands of this new market. And I defnitely want to stand for my fve words – I don’t want to walk away from luxury.” monreallondon.com
If quality and luxury factor highly in your everyday wardrobe, then why not in your sportswear, too? This is the philosophy of the people behind these four leading brands, who are changing the way we dress for good. words by ED NEEDHAM Photography by CAT GARCIA
Head of brand and central marketing at Rapha We are obsessed with making ourselves legitimate in a performance sense and everything we produce has that at its core.
It should come as no surprise that turnover at Rapha, the luxury cycling brand, grew by more than 30 per cent last year, on top of the 50 per cent the previous year. After all, two of the key abilities in competitive cycling are explosive speed and sustained pace, and Rapha understands this well. “We distilled our brand values last year for our 10th anniversary,” says James Fairbank. “One of them is the idea that being good just isn’t enough. We want to make road cycling the most popular sport in the world.” He’s not joking. All staff arrive at Rapha’s London headquarters on two wheels, hang up their bikes, then deLycra and shower before getting down to work. This intense faith in road cycling infuses everything Rapha does, from founder Simon Mottram’s grand vision of cyclewear truly refecting the sport’s traditions of design and endeavour, to a devotion to the smallest details. “We are obsessed with making ourselves legitimate in a performance sense and everything we produce has that at its core,” says Fairbank, “but that attention to detail – the touch points, the things that shout luxury, that consistent quality – is something people associate with you.” He gives the example of buying a product from the website. It arrives in a subtle, sophisticated package, “with beautifully printed collateral on nice stock with compelling copy that isn’t trying to fog you anything, but gives you a little more information, such as a story about a racer you’d never heard of doing something incredible – that hidden piece of value means a lot.” As for the ambition to take over the world, note that the goal is for the sport, not the company. “We will always pitch ourselves price-wise at a certain level,” says Fairbank. “We have no interest in diluting Rapha to become entry level.” Should anyone choose to doubt Rapha’s lofty aims, cycling offers a precedent. “I never thought I’d see a British winner of the Tour de France,” says Fairbank. “Everyone laughed when Team Sky said they would win with a British rider in fve years. They did it in three [with Chris Froome in 2013].” And who kits out Team Sky? One guess… rapha.cc
UK marketing manager at Speedo
we’ve spent the past 87 years creating revolutionary new technologies and designs. at the same time we’ve supported swimming from grass roots through to elite level.
Speedo began life in Australia in 1914 as an underwear manufacturer, but since it started producing swimwear in 1927, its domination of the world’s swimming pools has been relentless. Now, no major international swim event would be complete without a radical new shape or fabric by Speedo. The company’s quest for aquatic excellence has made the pool one of the frst places to look for groundbreaking developments in sportswear technology, such as the Fastskin suit, launched in 2000, which mimics the streamlined textures of the shark. That’s only half the story, though. “Speedo’s dominance comes from its long heritage in swim,” says UK marketing manager Sally Streeting. “Yes, we’ve spent the past 87 years creating revolutionary new technologies and designs. At the same time we’ve supported swimming from grass roots through to elite level.” The Speedo faithful include elite athletes, club swimmers, learners, and those who swim for their health and well-being: “They are there more for the psychological than the physical benefts of swimming; they go to have time on their own to think,” Streeting says. Indeed, Speedo goes to great lengths to understand the needs and wants of every swimmer, regardless of their medal prospects, by making sure that customers fully understand the products’ technical features. And, to persuade them that the brand is not just for Michael Phelps, Speedo’s efforts range from having brand ambassador Gabby Logan march a parade of women in their Sculpture swimwear through Covent Garden with a brass band (in 2013), to training tips and eating plans on its website. Speedo is unstinting in getting more people in the water. “In the UK most people don’t think about swimming as a part of their ftness regime,” says Streeting. “They don’t realize that 30 minutes of swimming is the equivalent of an hour’s land-based exercise and that it’s a total body workout as well.” Once in the water, though, all those years of innovation mean there’s no escaping the brand. “If they get the swimming bug,” she says, “they will eventually choose Speedo.” speedo.com
creative director and founder of Lucas Hugh The initial inspiration for the concept was someone who works out regularly and was unable to find something that performed really well but also looked good enough to do other things in.
“I believe that activewear is the future of ready-to-wear for women,” says Anjhe Mules, who, after working with performance textiles as a swimwear designer for 15 years, decided to back that belief by launching Lucas Hugh. “The initial inspiration for the concept was someone who works out regularly and was unable to fnd something that performed really well but also looked good enough to do other things in.” That person, originally, was herself. “I’m from New Zealand, and just by culture everyone is active, so it was quite common to wear sportswear throughout the day. I felt that there was nothing that was really technical for women’s activewear and it certainly didn’t have the fashion element. I could see that happening with menswear, but women were restricted to pink and purple.” Launched fve years ago, Lucas Hugh combines Olympic-quality production, with the approach – and prices – of a fashion house. “We do two collections a year, which is unheard of within activewear. We had a presentation during New York Fashion Week and do the photographs exactly like a fashion brand would.” This synthesis initially led to some bewilderment among retailers. “Harvey Nichols loved the look and they purchased the brand in 2011, but had no idea where to put it. Is it fashion or is it sport?” Since then, however, the idea has taken hold and fourished, helped by a thriving online retail operation, the enthusiasm of Net-A-Sporter and press exposure following the release of the flm The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), for which Lucas Hugh designed some of the costumes. “The head of wardrobe googled ‘futuristic sportswear’ and came across a jacket that I had designed,” says Mules. That futuristic vision is rapidly coming to pass, as big activewear brands are reportedly emulating the Lucas Hugh aesthetic. If Mules is correct, eventually the boundaries between high fashion and activewear will vanish completely: “Everyone will be wearing activewear. Body responsive textiles are the way of the future. It is not just a trend within fashion. It’s a whole lifestyle change.”
lucashugh.com 54 Baku.
nobody does it better ccording to legend and law, the zeitgeist appears to hit a form of creative peak every 10 years or so. It also seems to happen mid-decade. So, the frst iteration of post-war youth explosion peaked in 1966 (the year that Time magazine published its famous ‘London: The Swinging City’ cover), then the second peaked with the US disco explosion of 1975–77, followed by ‘designer’ New York in 1985 and Britpop in London in 1994. The current decade’s creative renaissance appears to be happening right now, as neither New York nor London have been so exciting for nearly 20 years. As business, technology and creativity entwine as never possible before, so both cities have become hubs of research, development and success. It stands to reason, therefore, that GQ, as keen a chronicler of the zeitgeist as anyone, should mark this event. Accordingly, in the June 2015 issue of GQ, we have a big celebration of British creativity, a portrait gallery of actors, musicians, industry bigwigs and, of course, David Beckham. In the past few years it has no longer been enough to focus media attention on just those in the arts. Now sports stars have become just as much of an attraction as actors, musicians, artists and writers. Sport is now more important than ever, as are its lionized custodians. Indeed, six years ago, when we were looking for someone to put on our cover to celebrate our 20th anniversary, there was really only one answer: David Beckham, a man who has retained his sporting status while also becoming a fashion-world favourite as well as a massive marketing
Photograph by SCOTT HOUSTON
opportunity. We had already featured him on our cover twice before, and as his image sold the magazine very well then, we decided to go with him again. And it worked, as our anniversary special was an enormously successful issue, easily outselling every other issue that year. So we have great confdence in putting Beckham on our cover again, knowing that he is going to have the kind of across-theboard appeal that a magazine of GQ’s wide readership responds to. In between these Beckham covers we have had many other sports stars, something we wouldn’t have immediately considered 20 years ago. We have had our successes, of course, but also our failures. Before the 2014 World Cup, we decided to publish a series of footballrelated covers, featuring various players and managers from around the world. We did this not just to try to show the extent of the global talent base, but also to try to downplay England’s own appearance in the tournament. Well, the covers were not our most successful, as in hindsight the message was too diffuse. Our readers respond to clear signals made by clear images. This is why having Lewis Hamilton on our cover always works – he is not only a global sports fgure, but also someone with a strong personality that comes across well. And people – GQ people, at least – like him. These days sport is so much more than just sport. Not only has the world shrunk to such an extent that you can go all the way to Bhutan and still be able to watch Manchester United games live on satellite television, but the skill sets of our modern sportsmen and women have changed. If you look at competitors such as Lewis Hamilton, Andy Murray, Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or Anna Kournikova (all GQ cover stars), each of them has to inhabit a world in which the media are everywhere. They not only compete in front of a global audience, but they are also scrutinized off the playing feld in a way that no generation of sports stars ever was. So while you might be the greatest ball player, Formula One driver, tennis ace or track star, unless you have the personality to embrace media training and
withstand this kind of attention, then your lights are going to be severely dimmed. Beckham is now a very successful sports brand, yet one who has built his appeal step-by-step (under the guidance of his marketing mentor, Simon Fuller). When I frst met Beckham 20 years ago, he showed no signs of having any marketing skills. I was introduced to him backstage at a concert, and he appeared to be all at sea. Surrounded by the great and the good (as well as by the requisite number of hangerson), he didn’t seem to know where to look or what to say. The one thing that caught my eye, that made me think that he might go on to be something other than just an extraordinarily successful footballer, was that, when offered a drink, he asked for water. And that’s what he drank all night. Here was a man, suddenly transported into a world about which he knew nothing, who wasn’t about to drink his way out of it. No, he was taking in everything around him to such an extent so that he could later turn it into something approaching power. In fact, around that time I also met some of his teammates at a fashion week party thrown by Giorgio Armani in Milan, and they were by no means gracious. Wandering around the home of one of the most important Italian fashion designers of all time, being feted with wine, women and sumptuous food by some of the biggest names in the industry, they behaved like louts. I went up to introduce myself to one of them, and when I told him that I was a big fan, he simply said, with a sneer, “Me too mate, so am I”. Not only could you not imagine Beckham saying anything so rude, but also these days no sports star could get away with that. Social media is such a judgemental force that the individual’s reputation would have been ruined by the time he got back to his hotel. No, these days, in our world of rolling news and social media, you are only as good as your last conversation. Sports personalities (and their agents) have learned this. Which is why they are increasingly the stars of the future. Don’t believe me? Just wait.
Dylan Jones is editor-in-chief of British ‘GQ’.
these days the biggest stars are emerging from the sports world as much as from hollywood or fashion, says dylan jones.
blood, sweat and tears – the world of professional wrestling is not for the fainthearted. we follow Azerbaijan’s championship team as they prepare for their next encounter. Photography by KALPESH LATHIGRA
The Azerbaijani wrestling team preparing for the European Games in Baku.
Opposite: Gamzat Osmanov, Azerbaijan champion at the Golden Grand Prix, Baku, 2013. This page: Saman Tahmasebi, silver medallist at the 2013 and 2014 World Championships.
Opposite: Shahriyar Mammadov. This page: (left) Aghahuseyn Mustafayev, champion at the Azerbaijani wrestling championship, Baku, in 2010; and Toghrul Asgarov, aÂ gold medallist at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and at the 2012 European Wrestling Championships.
Previous spread: A wrestler being treated with the ancient therapy of cupping, in which suction cups are placed on the skin to encourage blood fow and so aid healing. This page: (left) Elvin Mursaliyev and Rafig Huseynov. Opposite: Afsar Namazaliyev, the team coach.
thanks for the memory for competitor and spectator alike, there are those moments in life that fulfil or create dreams. we ask five people, all stars in their respective fields, for their defining sporting memories. interviews by ed needham illustrations by ALEX WILLIAMSON
usain bolt An eight-time world champion and holder of six Olympic sprint golds, the Jamaican sprinter is the fastest runner in the world. My defning memory has got to be winning gold in the 100m at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. I was drawn in lane 4 in the fnal and, with lane 1 unoccupied, knew that most of my strongest competitors were to my right. I got a good start and was tracking Trinidadâ€™s Richard Thompson for the frst 30m. When we reached about 50m I sensed that I was pulling away from the feld. At 60m I took a quick glance across to see where the others were and realizing that I was ahead I knew the race was mine. The last 20m is always the strongest part of my race and I knew that nobody was going to catch me so I spread my arms in celebration as I crossed the fnish line. Jamaica was going to have their frst-ever Olympic menâ€™s 100m champion. I still like to watch that race back every now and again.
Joseph O’Neill Joseph O’Neill won the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2009 for his novel ‘Netherland’. His latest novel, ‘The Dog’, was long-listed for the 2014 Man Booker prize. One of my oldest sporting memories is of being woken up by my father when I was 10, and being taken downstairs to watch the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ – Muhammad Ali fghting George Foreman in what was then Zaire – live on TV. We were living in Holland, where I grew up, and we had just bought a black-andwhite television. It was the middle of the night, which is an amazing time for a kid, and I was still in my pyjamas. The whole thing felt like a dream. I wasn’t fully awake; I was somehow at home and at the same time thousands of miles away in Africa. Ali was a huge name in our household. He was one of the most famous men in the world, a sportsman and also a potent and subversive political fgure, which appealed to my dad. Heavyweight boxing was also huge, and there was a kind of pantheon of mythic heavyweights: Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Muhammad Ali. They were almost deities. My father loved Ali. Of course, the memory of that moment has been complicated and imposed on by all the subsequent media coverage of that amazing fght. I do remember being mystifed by the knockout of Foreman by Ali in the eighth round. It just looked like a glancing blow. It’s a knockout I’ve never fully understood to this day. After the fght I said to my father, “Papa, you could beat Muhammad Ali, couldn’t you?” My father said, “Yes. I could.”
Marion Bartoli Marion Bartoli, from France, won the 2013 Wimbledon ladies’ final. When I played in the Wimbledon fnal I remember feeling nervous during my frst service game of the match, but after that, I had a really good run, leading 6-1 5-1 and having two match points. I started to think at that time that I had won Wimbledon, but at that exact second my legs started to freeze, and I couldn’t move any more. Sabine Lisicki came back at 5-4 and I had the longest changeover ever. A million things went through my head but when I stood up, I told myself, “This is your time now, you are going to do it!”. I can’t describe what I felt at the moment I won, I just can’t fnd the words to do it justice. I could see the proud look in my dad’s eyes and the joy on the faces of all of my friends in the box, and that was priceless. I woke up the following morning and just couldn’t believe what I had done only the day before. I remember I kept on checking the newspapers to see if it was really true.
James Corden Star of film, television and theatre, James Corden has recently taken over as host of ‘The Late Late Show’ on CBS in the US. My earliest sporting memory is being on the playing feld at school in 1988. It was sports day and I was in the 400m track race. The lanes were staggered; you know, people on the outside lane are miles in front of those on the inside. The gun went off… and no one was around me. For 15 great seconds I was thinking I was so fast, I thought I was killing it and for a few magical moments I knew what it felt like to be a champion Olympic sprinter. But then as I got to the bend, I immediately realized how slow I was as everyone was suddenly so far ahead of me. I limped in second to last, only in front of Alan Graham, and if you knew Alan, you would realize that’s nothing to be proud of.
toby jones Toby Jones is one of Britain’s most versatile actors in television, film and radio, with film credits ranging from ‘St. Trinian’s’ to ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ to the two ‘Captain America’ movies. Without question my strongest sporting memory is my grandfather taking me to see England play the West Indies at the Oval in 1976 – test cricket at its most terrifying. I was eight then, and spent all my summer holidays playing cricket. It obsessed me. It was scorching hot, we sat in the front row, and it was seventh heaven. I didn’t live in London and it was my frst exposure to West Indian cricket culture, with the steel drums and the noise. It was just thrilling, and you couldn’t believe that era of West Indies greatness was ever going to end. The day started with a fantastic rearguard action by [England batsman] Dennis Amiss, who managed to score 200, but then we witnessed the West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding – ‘Whispering Death’ – running in from the boundary rope. There was something so silently scary about him, yet I managed to fool myself that I could perhaps bowl with the same elegance, mystery and grace as he could. At that age you think it’s just a question of will over the body, but you couldn’t fnd a man less like him than me anywhere. The experiment got as far as my frst nets at school but was swiftly abandoned when my teammates laughed in my face.
life as sportswear goes up in the style stakes, Shiny, sheer and high-tech fabrics perform hard to take us from workout to work to weekend. Photography by PHILLIP GAY. Styling by mary fellowes.
Coat, tank top and shorts by DIOR.
THIS PAGE. Jacket by MCQ. Bandeau top by MARY KATRANTZOU. Leggings by BOTTEGA VENETA. Choker by ATSUKO KUDO. OPPOSITE. Top by LONGCHAMP.
Jacket by GIORGIO ARMANI. Bralet by LUCAS NASCIMENTO. Shorts by EMPORIO ARMANI. Choker by ATSUKO KUDO.
Top and skirt by HELEN LAWRENCE. Jacket by MONCLER. Choker by DKNY X BOND HARDWARE.
OPPOSITE. Sheer top by RICHARD NICOLL. Zipped top by HOUSE OF HOLLAND. Shorts by MONREAL LONDON. Choker by ATSUKO KUDO.
Jacket by MONCLER. Bikini top by TRIANGL.
THIS PAGE. Top by CALVIN KLEIN. Bandeau top by MARY KATRANTZOU. Skirt by LUCAS NASCIMENTO. Choker by DKNY X BOND HARDWARE. Shoes by JIMMY CHOO. OPPOSITE. Slip by LUCAS NASCIMENTO. Bra by VPL. Shorts by ERMANNO SCERVINO.
Hair BEN JONES at JED ROOT. Make-up LUCY BRIDGE at JED ROOT. Model TESS HELLFEUER at PLACE MODELS. Photography assistant CLEMENT DAUVENT. Fashion assistants DEE MORAN and CHINO CASTILLA. Set designer KILA CARR-INCE. Thanks to BESTWAY for the infatables.
We support our sportsmen and women through test our loyalty. Tim Lewis looks at how athletes
thick and thin but sometimes they can really become idols and how they can fall from grace.
(left to right)
JONNY WILKINSON at the 2003 Rugby World Cup fnal in Sydney.
GLENN HODDLE playing for England in 1986.
LANCE ARMSTRONG during the 2005 Tour de France.
MICHAEL JOHNSON at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL of the Los Angeles Lakers, 2003.
THIS SPREAD: (left to right)
LANCE ARMSTRONG during the 2004 Tour de France.
KOBE BRYANT of the Los Angeles Lakers, 2001.
TIGER WOODS in China, 2011.
hen I look back on a life spent obsessed with sport, it sometimes feels like I’m refecting on three-and-a-bit decades of romantic hook-ups. The memories of the best encounters leave me feeling warm and fuzzy; the worst are failed, semi-abusive relationships. You know when you think you’ll be with someone forever and they pull the rug from under you? Yes, I’m talking about you, Lance Armstrong, with your serial cheating. For some readers, the hardest break-ups might have been with recent villains Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Marion Jones or Oscar Pistorius. You are guaranteed a wild, exciting ride when you become emotionally entangled with a sports star, but they often make lousy long-term partners. I’ve been fairly promiscuous, but my frst love – metaphorically – was the English footballer Glenn Hoddle. He was tall, languid and maddeningly unpredictable. When I was seven, I wrote to him, via his club Tottenham Hotspur, and he sent back a signed black-and-white photograph. If I wanted a colour one, I’d have to pay a small fee and join his fan club. Which, of course, I did. I read his autobiography Spurred to Success (1987), the climax of which comes when he is injured but subsequently recovers by training on a racing bicycle. “The tyres the width of a shoelace,” I recall Hoddle wrote of that bicycle, in a rare moment of lyricism. On one occasion, I made a 320km round trip to Soccer Scene in Carnaby Street and had his name printed on a blue Spurs away shirt. On another, I inherited a pet female rabbit and renamed her Glenda. I feel a bit of a fool sharing these details. These days Hoddle is most visible as a pundit, popping up in the breaks during live
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football. He wears terrible boxy suits, has an egregious centre parting and makes not especially perceptive comments. Most damning of all, however, is that he once told a reporter that disabled people are being punished for sins committed in a former life, a view that led to him being fred as England football manager in 1999. We – Hoddle and I – never recovered from that. But I shouldn’t feel too bad; there are a number of sensible, even evolutionary reasons why we idolize sports stars and raise them up to be modern-day deities. It starts when we are young, notes Dr Stanley Teitelbaum, a clinical psychologist in New York and author of Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols (2005). “There’s a need in people to anoint heroes,” he explains to me. “People need to feel a connection to something larger and it can take many directions: it can be religious, some admire movie stars and others concentrate on sport. With sports heroes, when they perform well, we feel like winners – we feel better about ourselves.” This might be logical for children, but are we, as adults, really so simplistic that we will outsource our happiness to, say, Roger Federer or Liverpool FC, I ask Dr Teitelbaum. “Absolutely,” he replies. “It’s escapism. We live in a very stressful world and sport can become a positive outlet for us. And, to use a professional term, there’s so much more narcissism now. People are much
we sometimes fall in love with our sports heroes. We invest so much in that person that our brains actually tell us we are in a real relationship.
more involved with themselves rather than the people around them. If you walk down a street in New York or London, everyone is walking with their cellphone and that’s a form of alienation. So, through sports, it’s another way to make up for the lack of connection in people’s daily lives.” The observations of Dr Teitelbaum, whose clients have included both athletes and sports agents, are backed up by the science. A 2003 study from the University of Connecticut found that supporting a sports team typically made individuals feel more connected and less solitary – and this had a positive effect on their mental wellbeing, even when their team wasn’t especially successful. In addition, the most engaged fans – both male and female – suffer fewer bouts of depression and have higher self-esteem, according to 1993 research from the University of Kansas. The term ‘tribal’ is often used to describe the relationship between the fan and their favourite player or chosen team – and it turns out to be an apt word. I ask Professor Damian Hughes, a sports psychologist who was a coach at Manchester United and who recently published How to Think Like Sir Alex Ferguson (2014), about this phenomenon. “We are pack animals by our nature,” he says. “The frst thing we learned as a species was that you don’t go hunting for food on your own, so you hunt in a pack and in tribes. And sportsmen are the representatives of our tribes.” 93 Baku.
(left to right)
MARION JONES at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (top)
playing in Los Angeles in 2002. MICHAEL JOHNSON (bottom) at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. OSCAR PISTORIUS at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. ANDRE AGASSI at the 1992 Wimbledon Championship. TEAM RWANDA, the Rwanda national cycling team training in 2011.
That we admire the on-field gifts of star athletes often leads us to see them as role models off it. This is, historically, a bad idea.
In a sense – as I found with Hoddle – we sometimes fall in love with our sports heroes. We share a history, we go through good times and bad. We invest so much in that person that our brains actually tell us we are in a real relationship. It doesn’t hurt that the objects of our attention are often extremely beautiful with impossibly perfect bodies. I once had a conversation about sport with the author Malcolm Gladwell in which I suggested it was odd that tennis players were so overwhelmingly of aboveaverage attractiveness. “They are, aren’t they?” replied Gladwell. “Professional athletes as a whole are very attractive as a group. Tennis is a great example of this because self-confdence is such an enormous part of the sport. And beautiful people are more self-confdent because they get so much reinforcement over the course of their lives. If you are a
manifestly unattractive person, it’s very diffcult to generate the kind of selfconfdence necessary to be a world-class tennis player. It’s just really hard. But if you’re Steff Graf or Andre Agassi, people have been telling you you’re good and very attractive since you were a tot.” That we admire the on-feld gifts of star athletes often leads us to see them as role models off it. This is, historically, a bad idea. Nor is it something that most sports people ask for or want. Shaquille O’Neal, the basketball legend, spoke for many when he said that he hoped children would consider him a “real model” rather than a role model. “Don’t be like us, be better than us,” he has said. “If you see us make a mistake, don’t make the same mistake.” Professor Hughes tells the story of Michael Johnson, the American sprinter, who was once approached for an autograph while he was eating lunch with a friend. The woman tossed down the pad and asked Johnson to sign it for her son; when he bristled at the interruption, she told him he was a bad role model. He, with justifcation,
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pointed out that at that moment she wasn’t being a good role model to her son either. “It was like the athlete was a surrogate role model for what the parent should be doing,” says Hughes. Other athletes accept that with their celebrity comes a responsibility to behave in a certain way. At the peak of his fame, Jonny Wilkinson, the England rugby player, would imagine that a camera was following him 24 hours a day and adjust his behaviour accordingly. Even today, he responds personally to all fan correspondence and takes time to answer questions and offer advice in person. “People often come up to me and say, ‘I met so-and-so, he wasn’t that nice a bloke,’” Wilkinson tells me. “And I’m like, ‘Yes, he is. He’s a really nice guy. Maybe he was having a bad time.’ There’s always a reason for everything. But, from my point of view, this might be the only interaction you ever have with this person, so you want it to be a good representation of who you are.” It’s safe to say that very few sports stars would be happy to have roundthe-clock surveillance of their actions. Certainly not Lance Armstrong who, according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, oversaw “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”. Or Tiger Woods, who admitted to 120 affairs during his fve-year marriage. Why is it that sports heroes – especially the biggest names – seem to be so prone to such extreme indiscretions?
To be an elite sports person, you’ve got to be a bit weird. You’ve got to be ruthless and be willing to sacrifice your social life.
For Dr Teitelbaum, many are simply stuck in a “terminal adolescence” in which they can do no wrong. “They become stunted because they are not required to be part of the world of give and take. They have never been required to develop emotional maturity.” Professor Hughes believes the explanation is more straightforward: “To be an elite sports person, you’ve got to be a bit weird. You’ve got to be ruthless and be willing to sacrifce your social life, your own development and put yourself through inordinate amounts of physical pain and suffering. They tend to be obsessive characters.” For me, as a passionate cycling fan, I vowed never to have my heart broken again after hearing the extent of Armstrong’s deception. I was that scarred. But I am pleased to report that I have recently entered into a new relationship. When the truth about Armstrong was emerging, halfway across the world a very different group of cyclists was starting on a road that they hope will lead one day to the Tour de France. Team Rwanda is a squad of young men and women, many of whom have the most harrowing personal histories. Their star rider Adrien Niyonshuti was seven years old during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when at least 800,000 of his compatriots – one in 10 of the population – and 60 members of his family were slaughtered in 100 days. Team Rwanda’s ongoing journey adds a new dimension to the idea of the sports hero, an idea I have come to understand after much trial and error. Glenn Hoddle may have been my frst sporting love, but at least he wasn’t my last.
Tim Lewis’s book, ‘Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda’s Cycling Team’, is out now from Yellow Jersey.
Azerbaijanâ€™s Mountain Bike team are let loose in baku for some freewheeling fun. a Zaha Hadid architectural masterpiece proves the perfect adventure playground. Photography by PAUL CALVER
Turning tricks at the HEYDAR
Pulling a wheelie at Dagustu overlooking the Baku cityscape.
this page: (clockwise, from top left) Murad Sultanov, Akshin Bagirli, Kamran Mammedov and Orxan Mammedov. opposite: Pausing for refection in the shadow of the Flame Towers.
Under Starter’s Orders
With the new appetite for sportswear, fashion brands are racing to launch collections that combine performance with a designer aesthetic.
words by HARRIET QUICK
here’s no better incentive to get one pounding the streets, signing up for Barrecore, or downloading the Skinny Bitch Collective exercise app than spying a few fashion icons in sport mode. Spot Natalia Vodianova in Stella McCartney leggings, black trainers and little beige vest top bouncing across the pages of Instagram, alerting the world to the Paris half-marathon that she runs every year. Or view ballettrained supermodel Karlie Kloss (a new face for Nike) with those impossibly lithe limbs performing a grand jeté on a windswept beach. And weren’t you secretly fascinated by Robin Wright’s look as she donned her all-black running gear for after-dusk runs in the political thriller House of Cards? Even Jane Fonda, pioneer of 1980s aerobics (the workout that spurred the sales of millions of stripy leg warmers), gets a look in; at the Grammys this year the 77-year-old actress showed off her fne physique in an emeraldgreen Balmain jumpsuit that could double up as a pro ice-skating outft. Yes, ftness is now the number one status symbol. Forget the feet of cars, the property portfolio, the private jet – a well-turned bicep,
side-plank-defned waist and poised shoulder line clad in precision-contoured kit are the new triggers for lifestyle envy. In a world where everyone seems to be multitasking every waking hour, a chic-looking physique (the kind you only get from dedication and/or a personal trainer) implies you have a healthy mind and healthy body, and can sustain glamour standards from dawn till dusk. Fashion, an indulgence that used to be associated with a manicured elite or street-savvy verve, has been fne-tuning its sports agenda as brands, new niche designers and even music maestros get in on the game. At New York Fashion Week in February, Kanye West (a fan of style culture) launched his frst collaboration Kanye West x Adidas Originals. He is evangelical about creating cool, affordable kit and sent out his collection of shearling jackets and love-worn sweatshirts, tights and bras in military colours on a multi-ethnic cast of all sizes in a powerful performance piece by Italian artist, Vanessa Beecroft. Launched at a fashion week opening gala, this collection demonstrated that the new sportswear has ambitions to go everywhere. Once you’ve got commonplace, you’ve got oneupmanship. Who would have imagined paying $100 or more on Lululemon yoga pants or $400 on a pair of digital-print leggings from cult specialist Lucas Hugh? Once upon a time, sports kit was a tired mishmash of
1. Natalia Vodianova runs for Naked Heart Foundation in the Paris Semi-Marathon 2013. 2. Jane Fonda wearing BALMAIN at the 2015 Grammys, Los Angeles. Main image: the a/w 2015 show, designed by artist Vanessa Beecroft, of the Yeezy collection by KANYE WEST X ADIDAS ORIGINALS at New York Fashion Week, with (3) Kanye West.
KEVIN MAZUR/CONSTANCE DECORDE/DAN MACMEDAN/WIREIMAGE/GETTY. DDP USA/REX.
Karlie Kloss in embossed woven womenâ€™s jacket by NIKE X PEDRO LOURENCO.
lucas hugh It was back in the dark ages of sports fashion that New Zealandborn designer Anje Mules launched her luxury line. Using high-spec fabrics – UV protective, contouring and breathable – with Blade Runner-esque dynamic graphic detailing and snazzy digital prints (right), Lucas Hugh soon became an insider’s top tip. The collection includes workout wear and swimwear. lucashugh.com
a baggy T-shirt, black leggings, a sports bra and micro-fbre running shorts with a pair of glaring neon/mesh trainers. We would throw that kit promptly into the washing pile before the next reluctant workout. Now that the gym/park/pool has become the new third space, we feel a need to show off, rather than hide. Fashion is now offering separate outfts for yoga, active, and even chill-out wear. Our sports look has become part of our fashion look: something to admire and get excited about. And maybe because it’s sold at Net-A-Sporter or Harvey Nichols (where evening dresses exceed £2,000) we blink rather than wince at the prices. As with the health-giving properties of green juice, we are complicit in the perpetuation of the myth that sports fashion can put us at the top of our game. “I’ve never worn trainers to a fashion show [before],” says Angelica Cheung, editor-in-chief of Vogue China. “But they are just so comfortable,” she says, skipping along in a pair of Dior sequined and embroidered sneakers and silk track-style pants. The momentum of sport designs in high-end fashion has been building over the seasons. When Chanel sent out metallic python and tweed trainers on to the July couture catwalk in 2014 it looked like luxe sports had reached its peak. That the
nobody had ever created anything like it – a combination of a strong design aesthetic with true performance technologies. trainers sold out (ditto Dior’s, and Valentino’s version in suede and lace) points to a trend that has kept on rolling ever since high-end fashion discovered sportswear. Stella McCartney, one of the frst brands after Yohji Yamamoto’s Y-3 to break into the fashion sports market, is now in the tenth year of its line with 113 Baku.
laain Stylist Tamara Rothstein is on the inside track when it comes to the tricks of cut and contouring. As an active sports enthusiast and north London-dwelling mother-of-one, she is savvy to what works and looks chic at any time. This season she launches LAAIN, a luxurious but low-key take on active wear. The speciality is a fnely woven honeycomb knit. Find streamlining leggings (left), vest tops and polo shirts in greens, inky blues and soft putty shades at Net-A-Sporter. net-a-porter.com
1. Trainers on the CHANEL s/s 2014 catwalk at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week. 2. Models at the ADIDAS BY STELLA McCartney s/s 2014 show at London Fashion Week. The 2012 British team strip designed by Stella McCartney for Adidas Track, as worn by (3) cyclist Victoria Pendleton and (4) several of the top athletes in Team GB.
RETNA/PHOTOSHOT. TIM P. WHITBY/GETTY. CAMERA PRESS.
Adidas, which provided Team GB with kit for all disciplines for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As McCartney herself has said, “When we began working on the frst season, nobody had ever created anything like it – a combination of a strong design aesthetic with true performance technologies.” It proved to be a very smart move. Sport fashion collaborations are now springing up across the globe. At the start of 2015 Nike announced its collaboration with Pedro Lourenço, the young Brazilian designer known for sexy, graphic eveningwear. Alongside its associations with Raf Simons and Rick Owens, Nike also has a long-standing tie with Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy for a version of its famous Air Force 1 sneaker, a style Tisci has been wearing since his teenage years. Adidas, meanwhile, is moving into a second capsule with Anglo-Greek designer Mary Katrantzou, who
You can wear, say, puma or Nike to the office and no one is going to judge you because you are not wearing high heels.
Weargrace For yoga devotees who appreciate a feminine twist to their daily practice, Weargrace delivers a poetic elegance. Founded by Karen Joyce, a former image director for the Gucci Group in London, this American expat knows a thing or two about the skill of unwinding from a hectic life. She quit her potential ‘burnout’ job and found grace in the ancient practice of yoga. The range ofers both ‘on the mat’ pieces, like drape vest tops and side-ruche leggings, as well as ‘of the matt’ silk kimono jackets and sarong skirts in dove grey, sea blue and the palest pink (above). Joyce also runs rejuvenating retreats in the Tuscan hills. weargrace.com
came to fame not for bodycon fashion but for her sensational, surreal prints. Her studded print sneakers and tank dresses and tops with giant sneaker prints are certainly head-turners in a market swamped with lurid neon and ugly mesh. “I went to Nuremberg to view the Adidas archive. It was ceremonial – I even had to wear white gloves,” Katrantzou recalls, laughing. “It’s wonderful as it reaches out there to people who might not be able to afford the ready-to-wear line,” she adds of the win-win tie-in. Over at McQ by Alexander McQueen you can fnd sneakers created in collaboration with Puma. The spring/summer collection sees metallic python effects combined in low- and high-tops in orange-sherbet shades. “Five years ago there was nothing – now everyone is doing a fashion sneaker, so you have to adapt and create,” says Yassine Saidi, head of global footwear at Puma. “Sneakers are like a handbag – a style accessory. You can wear, say, Puma or Nike to the offce and no one is going to judge you because you are not wearing high heels,” he adds. Brands and designers have a lot of history to draw on. Sportswear has long been a symbol of street cool with hip-hop bands in the 1980s adopting Adidas striped track pants and Reebok hightops. Sportswear was democratic, cheaper than the expensive, conservative looks of designer
nikelab x sacai When Nike approached cult Japanese brand Sacai for a collaborative capsule collection, it was fate. Designer and CEO, Chitose Abe (left), who is currently wooing the fashion set with her innovative hybrid designs that might see a biker jacket fused with a tweed jacket, or a shorts/ skirt trimmed in Swiss lace, was drawn to Nike’s classics like the Windrunner jacket and Dunk trainer. She created a series of eight pieces that are full of the firtatious wit and whimsy that the designer is known for. “Nike is so focused on technology and fabric innovation and that is a big interest for me,” says Abe, who trained under the legendary Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons and who now runs her company from an atelier in Tokyo and shows at Paris Fashion Week. The line includes a cherry-red Windrunner that firts out into a pleated backtail, mesh-lace-trimmed T-shirts and a sweatshirt with peplums. The Air Max is reprised as a slip-on while the cool Dunk gets an invisible wedge – this is kit that will make you run like the wind and be chic-proofed. nike.com
1 sensors, cooling fabrics and extreme lightweights also add to the innovation buzz (woah – check out the new Techft compression technology at McCartney’s Adidas). But the most persuasive signifer of sports fashion – true whether you are on the school run, dipping into another set of crunches, or running around the stadium at the Baku European Games – is that the look of sport says competition. And people have always loved the look of winning.
perfect moment When Hong Kong-based entrepreneur Jane Gottschalk was fying down a piste in Chamonix, she had the idea of a fashion-led yet functional snow sports brand, and Perfect Moment was born. Its primary-coloured kit includes chevron-striped jackets (above) and lean-ftting pants (with signature star motif), delivering a poppy 1970s mood to the slopes. The line includes men’s, women’s and children’s wear (Gottschalk and her husband Max are parents to fve) and après-ski pieces such as T-shirts, hoodies and slim zipper-neck knits which work all year round. perfectmoment.com
EBET ROBERTS/REDFERNS/CHRISTOPHER POLK/ARUN NEVADER/JULIEN M. HEKIMIAN/GETTY. CRAIG MCDEAN.
wear – something that hip-hop stars could make their own. Today pop icons such as Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift have taken on the sports bra as part of their savvy look, while Pharrell has joined Kanye West at Adidas. The other pull in our techobsessed times is the futuristic look of sports fashion. At the cutting edge, New Balance is now able to create 3D-moulded track shoes that match the spike patterns with a runner’s footprint. Hi-tech polyamides, internal
Up the Pace With so many styles to choose from, here’s our pick of the top trainers from the spring/summer collections, ranging from the understated to the outrageous. VALENTINO 1973 Rockrunner These patchwork leather and suede sneakers are the equivalent of Joseph’s technicolour dreamcoat. Perfect for the 1970s trend that is coursing through this season.
Puma x McQ
Tiring of black? These sherbet orange low-tops with a little fash of silver are for trainer lovers with a sweet tooth. Take note: orange is on trend this season – why not beat the competition?
These textured leather low-tops are the style world’s latest passion, and deliver box-fresh whiteness and sheer one-upmanship. Wear with your favourite denims.
1. The members of Run-DMC wearing Adidas trainers, 1986. 2. The Stan Smith tennis shoe by ADIDAS ORIGINALS = PHARRELL. 3. Shoes by Y-3. 4. The Y-3 a/w 2014–15 show at Paris Fashion Week.
Nike Air Force 1 by Riccardo Tisci
Givenchy’s creative director has a fetish for this style and it shows in the refned colourways, raised heel and intense detailing.
As night descends on baku, the cityscape begins to illuminate the sky. with arenas for the games adding to the dazzling architecture of the city, We take to the skies to capture these mesmerizing creations. Photography by GILES PRICE
Previous spread: the olympic stadium and lake boyukshor. this page: TRUMP TOWER
THE SILHOUETTE OF TRUMP TOWER STRIKES A SLEEK ARC, SPRINGING FROM A LANDSCAPED OASIS AND CURVING TO A PINNACLE TO PIERCE THE SKY. IT’S IN A GATEWAY POSITION, WHERE MAIN ROUTES INTO THE CITY MEET. MIXITY DESIGN
FLAME TOWERS and THE BOULEVARD
BAKU EYE beyond the FLAME TOWERS
THE OLYMPIC STADIUM WAS INSPIRED BY THE CITY’S MAIDEN TOWER, WITH ITS CYLINDRICAL SHAPE, 126 Baku.
WHICH WAS ALSO PERFECT TO HOUSE 400 METRES OF RUNNING TRACK.
HEERIM ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS 127 Baku.
NATIONAL GYMNASTICS ARENA
A TRULY GLOBAL TEAM OF SPECIALISTS, FROM AZERBAIJAN TO EUROPE TO AMERICA, WAS INVOLVED IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARENA. THE BUILDING DESIGN REFLECTS THE BEAUTY AND GRACEFUL MOVEMENT OF THE PERFORMANCES. BROADWAY MALYAN ARCHITECTS
NATIONAL FLAG SQUARE and CRYSTAL HALL
Gymnastics can be a cruel sport, being both hard on the body and the mind. It can also bring great rewards â€“ some of these young women will win medals and all that training will have been worthwhile, but for the rest, the years of sacrifice and discipline will lead to nothing. Photography by PETER BEAVIS
Previous spread: simara jafarova leads Azerbaijan’s junior team on to the foor. This spread: (top left and right) carmen maria crescenzi of Italy; (bottom left) Russia’s yana kudryavtseva; (bottom right) Kazakhstan’s sabina ashirbayeva.
Opposite: iuliia soloviova of Azerbaijan. This page: (top) ayshan bayramova, also from Azerbaijan; (bottom) sabina ashirbayeva.
This page: (top) gulsum shafizada; and (bottom) marina durunda, both of Azerbaijan. Opposite: berg solveig of Norway.
previous spread: nicol ruprecht representing Austria. Opposite: gulsum shafizada performs with the hoop for Azerbaijan. This page: Azerbaijanâ€™s junior group team go through their routine.
Your pull-out map of Baku was right here. Where did it go?
see & do Behind the original city walls lies the ancient heart of Baku. The Old Town has been beautifully restored and is now a Unesco World Heritage site. Learn the legends of the centuriesold Maiden Tower, explore the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, then pause for tea in a shady courtyard.
Ateshgah Fire Temple
A trip to the Land of Fire is not complete without a visit to the magical Ateshgah Fire Temple (part of it dating back to 1713) in the little town of Surakhani, on the northeast edge of Baku. Once an important Zoroastrian site, it still spurts flames from its central temple (however the gas is now piped in, rather than naturally occurring). To witness the real deal, stop by Fire Mountain (or Yanar Dag in Azerbaijani) on your way back to the city. Gas seeps from a hillside here, resulting in a 10m stretch of flames that burn continuously. Truly awe-inspiring.
National History Museum
Housed in one of the most palatial of the Beaux-Arts mansions built during Azerbaijan’s first oil boom at the turn of the last century, the National History Museum occupies one whole floor and offers an insight into the country’s varied past. On the floor above, several rooms have been superbly recreated to show how the oil baron, Zeynalabdin Taghiyev, and his family lived. azhistorymuseum.az
Baku’s tree-lined, waterfront promenade, where locals come to stroll, gossip, shop, keep fit and dine on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
Roll up, roll up – discover the history behind Azerbaijan’s famed carpets in this striking rug-shaped museum. azcarpetmuseum.az
Museum of Modern Art MoMA is a labyrinthine space incorporating an impressive permanent collection of avantgarde Azerbaijani art and sculpture alongside works by 20th-century masters such as Picasso, Chagall and Dalí. A programme of temporary exhibitions means there’s always something new to see. mim.az
Gobustan rock art
View art in its most ancient form – the rocky plateaus of Gobustan, just over an hour’s drive from Baku, are covered in more than 6,000 drawings dating back some 40,000 years.
Heydar Aliyev Centre
Zaha Hadid’s astonishing building has already become Baku’s most famous new landmark. Its cavernous white interior hosts art exhibitions, conferences and performances. heydaraliyevcenter.az
Yarat contemporary art centre
Recently opened in a vast Sovietera naval building in Baku’s old (and now upcoming) port area, this gallery is the first to display Yarat’s permanent collection. The local art organization’s space also houses artists’ studios and puts on special exhibitions, such as its inaugural show by Shirin Neshat (until 23 June). yarat.az
The glittering venue built in time for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest now hosts top international names – recent acts have included Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and will.i.am.
Amburan Beach Club
The French Riviera meets the Caspian at this St-Tropez-styled coastal hangout for the beautiful people of Baku. Watersports, DJs and waterfront dining keep the party going all day. amburan.com
map for illustrative purposes only.
Eat & Drink
26 19 8 24
6 28 5 16
27 4 12
2 3 10
13 14 22
1 Shovkat Alakbarova Street Baku’s original sophisticated dining spot, this is the place to take someone you want to impress. The pan-Asian menu spans sushi, curry and dim sum, plus there’s a sexy mezzanine bar. chinar-dining.com
4. Paris Bistro
1–4 Zarifa Aliyeva Street With its red leather banquettes, gleaming brass fittings and Gallic-inspired menus, this is a little slice of the French capital nestled in the heart of Baku. You can almost hear the accordions. parisbistro.az
77–79 Neftchilar Avenue Every surface here shimmers, creating a luxe setting for an indulgent seafood supper. This rooftop restaurant at the Four Seasons also offers live jazz. fourseasons.com/baku
14. Mugham Club
16. Baku Cafe
13. Art Garden
17. qosha qala
34 Neftchilar Avenue Expect a rumble in the jungle with Pasifico’s Amazon-esque theme, complete with a greentiled bar designed to look like an anaconda. DJs spin tracks as you dine on Peruvian ceviche. pasifico-dining.az
34 Neftchilar Avenue Sipping a negroni on Tosca’s terrace overlooking the sea is a quintessential Baku experience. Inside has a trattoria feel, complete with a wood-fired oven and gelateria, and good Italian wines. pasifico-dining.az
Port Baku Baku’s oldest Italian restaurant has opened a smart new branch at Port Baku, its traditional home-style fare providing the perfect pit stop after a hard day’s shopping. portbaku-dining.az
Port Baku Named after the Spanish artistic movement, this glamorous latenight lounge focuses on fresh Moorish-style food. With plush colourful cushions and bronze banquettes, it’s easy to stay for hours. portbaku-dining.az
674 Azadliq Square For a hearty steak or burger served with thick-cut wedges, and perhaps with something from the Wine Library, this is the place. The red-lit interior emits a moody ambience for dinner. jwmarriottbaku.com
28 M. Guseynov Street You can now dine – and dance – within the iconic rolledup-carpet-shaped Carpet Museum at this slick new lounge restaurant. The cuisine is mainly Japanese inspired, and a sushi bar serves as focal point.
18. four seasons
77–79 Neftchilar Avenue With the Boulevard and the Caspian over the road, the Old Town behind and the designer stores of Neftchilar Avenue next door, the Four Seasons is a grand retreat in the heart of it all. fourseasons.com/baku
20–22 Khojali Avenue Here you’ll find classic dishes, such as qutabs (a kind of stuffed pancake), cooked to perfection. The decor is contemporary with tasteful elements of the traditional. It’s a firm favourite among locals. sumakh.az
Old Town Hitch your camel to a post and rest your weary feet (as Silk Road travellers once did) at this 700-year-old caravanserai. An authentic meal of grilled meats and pomegranate juice will be served in a private dining room.
Old Town In the tranquil courtyard of a converted caravanserai is the Art Garden restaurant and gallery. Live jazz entertains a mellow evening crowd relaxing with hookahs and sipping tea with local jams. artgroup.az
20. trump tower
Hasan Aliyev Street Opening its doors this summer, the LED-clad sail-shaped Trump Tower will be the first luxury hotel near the Heydar Aliyev Centre. The expansive spa is set to be a highlight. trumphotelcollection.com/baku
19.JW Marriott Absheron 21. Fairmont 674 Azadliq Square A sleek, contemporary five-star with first-rate service but also a sense of fun, to which the toy robots and orange rubber ducks in the lobby attest. The rooftop spa and gym offer far-reaching city views. jwmarriottbaku.com
34 Neftchilar Avenue An atmospheric, highcontemporary interior brings Azerbaijani cuisine firmly into the 21st century, with a modern take on traditional dishes such as dolma. sahil-dining.az
1A Mehdi Huseyn Street The Fairmont occupies all 36 floors of one of the Flame Towers. Here, size is everything, from the 6m chandelier in the lobby to the large rooms with spectacular views of the Caspian. fairmont.com/baku
Old Town Yet another old caravanserai beautifully transformed into a courtyard restaurant, this time with big fig trees, twinkling fairy lights and evening perfomances by mugham dancers and musicians while you dine.
86 Salatin Askerova Street It may sound a bit cheesy, but this vast ‘museum restaurant’ is a recreation of Baku’s Old Town – done brilliantly. Indoors, you’ll walk through cobbled alleys, opulent dining rooms and there’s a fabulous roof terrace.
153 Neftchilar Avenue A space inspired by this very publication, Baku Cafe is all about organic, mostly locally sourced, healthy food. Spread over two floors, it’s also a gallery for home-grown art. portbaku-dining.az
34 Tagiev Street, Mardakan Not far from the airport and Jumeirah Bilgah Beach, this sumptuously decorated eatery is a particular favourite in summer for its terraces and lush gardens as well as the fish dishes, such as Caspian kutum. qoshaqala.az
22. Sultan Inn
28. Port Baku Mall
30. Neftchilar Avenue
23. Jumeirah hotel
25. Alov Jazz Bar
27. 360 bar
29. Harvey Nichols
Old Town Hark back to old Baku at the Sultan Inn – a chic boutique hotel in a 19th-century mansion. There are just 11 rooms, and the terrace restaurant and bar provide one of the loveliest views in the city. sultaninn.com
Bilgah Beach For something a bit quieter but no less luxurious, this beachside resort is about a 30-minute drive from Baku and just down the peninsula from summer hot spot, Amburan Beach Club. jumeirah.com/baku
99 Neftchilar Avenue The Baku branch of this global brand of uber-glam nightspots debuted in the capital late last year. A suspended, illuminated crystal Buddha adds to the dazzling Oriental atmosphere. buddhabar-baku.az
1A Mehdi Huseyn Street Find live jazz, cigars and killer cocktails with city views to match, thanks to Alov’s location on the third floor of the Fairmont, in one of the Flame Towers. Smooth. fairmont.com/baku
674 Azadliq Square The trippy neon purple interior is inspired by Azerbaijani carpets. Don’t let that put you off – after two or three spiced pomegranate martinis it all makes perfect sense. jwmarriottbaku.com
1B Azadliq Avenue A revolving bar never loses its appeal, especially when the 360� views take in the glittering cityscape of Baku and the Caspian Sea. And the cocktails are sublime as well. hilton.com/baku
An elegant shopping mall overlooking the Caspian, home to the likes of Balenciaga, Givenchy, Chloé, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, plus the 10,000sq m flagship branch of designer concept store Emporium. portbaku.az
35 Tbilisi Avenue, Globus Plaza Baku’s latest temple to retail, with seven floors of international designer fashion, bridalwear and beauty, the newly opened branch of the London original also has a rooftop bar and club. harveynichols.com
The Bond Street or Fifth Avenue of Baku, lined with top fashion names including Céline, Tom Ford, Burberry, Gucci, Dior and Salvatore Ferragamo. Continue the designer fix around the corner in Rasul Rza Street, with Moschino and Saint Laurent.
2 Shamsi Rahimov Street This carpet gallery and shop, away from the busy city centre, is a must-visit for all things carpet-related – go there to learn about Azerbaijan’s famed weaving heritage and take home a high-quality rug. azerilme.az
ILLUSTRATIOns BY ZOE MORE O’FERRALL. compiled by laura archer and abbie vora. © conde nast 2015.
flight of fancy
Glinting geometric glass panels and cosy wooden cocoons are just two distinctive features of Baku airport’s new international terminal. Designed by Turkish architecture studio Autoban, it’s a sanctuary of neutral colours and calm. PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRISTOPHER GRIFFITH
153 111 Baku.
for a few glorious weeks a city’s olympic venues are in the global spotlight. but then what? the need to leave a legacy has never been more relevant. words by PAUL KENDALL Photography by spencer murphy
n a cold, bright day at the beginning of spring, I stood outside the space-age Aquatics Centre in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, turned the handle on a ‘sound station’, and found myself transported back to the heart-thumping excitement of the 2012 Games. Contained within the machine was a recording of 17,500 spectators screaming themselves hoarse as they watched the British Paralympian Ellie Simmonds overtake American world record holder Victoria Arlen and take gold in her favourite event – the 400m freestyle. At the time Lord Coe, chairman of the London 2012 organizing committee, said the extraordinary noise inside the Aquatics Centre and other venues was the best possible endorsement of the Games, and a noisy rebuke to those cynics who had predicted a multi-billion-pound damp squib. Most of those Olympic “doom-mongers”, as London mayor Boris Johnson called them, had to admit he had a point; the Olympics and Paralympics had electrifed the nation and shown the world that Britain could still stage colossal events with style, effciency and not a little humour. But the jury was still out, the critics warned, on the second aim of Coe’s project: to “inspire a generation” in the grip of an obesity epidemic to lead sportier, healthier lives. Now, two-and-a-half years after the Olympic fame was fnally extinguished, another noise, again inside the Aquatics Centre, suggests that Coe is winning that argument, too. Reverberating around the venue’s 50m training pool, just after 10 o’clock on a Wednesday morning, are the voices of 60 schoolchildren, parents and toddlers, all of whom have travelled to this fast-growing area of east London to take advantage of the building’s new life as a municipal leisure centre. Architect Zaha Hadid’s wave-like creation, one of the most spectacular Olympic venues in the world, has become a legacy success story. After an 18-month transformation programme, in which the two wings that contained 15,000 of the 17,500 seats were removed and replaced with 628 panes of glass, the centre now offers a vast array of courses and sessions for everyone from complete beginners to elite athletes. 158 Baku.
the next generation xx Baku.
There is an unmistakable charge to the atmosphere inside the Aquatics Centre. Hadid’s design, with its yawning, swooping roof supported by only two concrete pillars at the north end and a 5m-thick concrete wall at the other, creates a breathtaking view of the competition pool and the vertiginous diving platforms where Tom Daley won his bronze medal. Stepping out on to the frst foor viewing area is like entering the vast space of a cathedral, and the entire venue, in every seat, walkway and paving stone, is imbued with the memories and emotions of the 2012 Games. The children I meet, a Year Five class from the Sir John Heron Primary School, in Manor Park, Newham, feel it too. Aged between nine and 11, they are in the middle of an intensive school swimming initiative, a two-week course of daily one-hour lessons, the idea being that consecutive lessons over a block of time are more productive than the weekly trips to a leisure centre that most schools offer. The programme is open to primary schools in the so-called Olympic boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Newham, Hackney, Greenwich, and Barking and Dagenham, and currently attracts 300 pupils per week. The same scheme at a different venue would probably be popular too, but Habibah Shah, a 24-year-old teacher from Sir John Heron whose job it is to herd her class to and from the centre, is sure the building’s Olympic heritage makes a difference. “To know that this was part of the Olympics inspires them,” she tells me as the class play a rough-and-ready game of water
A couple of days ago they saw Tom Daley across the other side doing his tricks and they got very excited. Among a packed schedule of programmes, the centre offers lessons in learning to swim for children and adults, water-ftness classes, family swimming, a diving academy and a fun session called Aqua Splash, which involves the placing of a huge yellow-and-green infatable assault course in the very pool where Michael Phelps won four gold medals. Everybody is welcome and the cost is low – just £3.50 for some sessions, which is the same price as other public pools in the surrounding area. The Aquatics Centre is not the only venue in the Olympic Park that has opened its doors to the public. The Velodrome, where Sir Chris Hoy and his Team GB and Paralympics GB compatriots enjoyed so much success, runs an introduction to track cycling and a four-stage accreditation course. Those who prefer jumps, bumps and berms can try their luck on the adjacent Olympic BMX track, while the foodlit road circuit is available for serious stamina training. There are also three graded mountain bike trails. At the Copper Box Arena, which hosted handball, fencing and goalball (a game for visually impaired athletes) during the Games, you can take part in activities from boxing to badminton, martial arts, Zumba and gymnastics. The 7,500-seater venue, the third largest indoor arena in London, is home to the London Lions basketball team and the Leyton Netball Club and has hosted dozens of school sports days and birthday parties (including that of one of David Beckham’s sons), as well as tea dances for older visitors. In addition to all this, the Olympic Park, which has been transformed as part of the £300m revamp, boasts 4,300 new trees and several nature trails across 227ha of parkland. “A huge amount of work has been done to make sure that everyone, including those from the local boroughs, benefts from having the Park and world-class venues in east London,” says Karen West, the head of sport and health at the London Legacy Development Corporation, the organization charged with delivering the Park’s physical legacy. “The London 2012 games were a major catalyst to get these tremendous venues built, but ultimately, it was all about transforming them for everyone to use. Now hundreds of thousands of Londoners and visitors alike have access to amazing facilities.” 160 Baku.
polo. “A couple of days ago they saw Tom Daley across the other side doing his tricks and they got very excited and were cheering him on. I’ve heard some of the children saying they want to carry this on and will ask their parents to bring them back here.” That is especially encouraging considering many of the children in the class of 29 couldn’t swim a stroke at the beginning of the course. “On Monday two weeks ago, some children were scared to get in to the pool,” Shah says. “Now you can see them swimming without foats. Others, who are naturally good, have been helped to recognize that they have potential. It’s been brilliant.”
Year Five pupils from Sir John Heron Primary School, in east London, at the former Olympic Aquatics Centre. Opposite: the Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre.
Saad works for Fit For Sport, an organization that runs after-school clubs, PE sessions and activity camps during the holidays, including one at the Copper Box. The camps, which cater for children between the ages of three and 12, attract people from a wide range of religions and ethnic groups. Another scheme, run by the Barry McGuigan Boxing Academy, encourages participants from different generations to do boxing-specifc exercises together, such as skipping and footwork, and reports burgeoning friendships between the young and old. “We have enough evidence now to show that sport improves people’s lives,” says Karen West. “Sport gives you friends for life. You create bonds with people that you never lose. And it can take you around the world. It gives you confdence to talk to other people and teaches you how to talk to people from different backgrounds. It has certainly enriched my life.” West, who is 52, is also passionate about encouraging older people or people with injuries or illnesses to take advantage of the Park. She has overseen the introduction of a GP referral system, which allows doctors to send patients who have mobility issues or are recovering from an operation to exercise programmes in the Park. Nordic walking groups and community cycling programmes have also proved popular. As time marches on, and the world’s attention turns to the 2016 Rio Games, the events of 2012 inevitably start to recede. Did Mo Farrah really run that blistering fnal lap in the 10,000 metres? Did Greg Rutherford really come out of nowhere to land a long jump gold on the same night? But West is convinced those frenetic two weeks of the London Olympics changed us as a nation, profoundly and irrevocably. “There was something magical about what happened in the Park,” she says. “There’s a fairy dust about it. It’s hard to put into words, but I see it in the way people smile. There is a pride and enthusiasm among local residents. It was there in 2012, and it’s still there today.” And the course is having an effect on learning as well. Multiple studies have highlighted the positive change exercise has made to concentration levels among students, and Shah’s class is proof of this. “They’re a lot calmer,” she says. “On the way in, there’s a lot of noise on the coach, but on the way back, they’re far quieter. They come into class and settle really easily.” Such improvements in behaviour and health are desperately needed in Newham and the other Olympic boroughs. A report published in 2012 showed that health and life chances of children in these areas were substantially worse than elsewhere in London, with only half of all school-leavers achieving fve GCSEs and a high proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training (a group known as NEETS). Six- to 12-year-olds are less physically active than their counterparts in other areas of London (many don’t even have a park nearby where they can kick a football around) and one in eight fve-year-olds is obese. That is one of the reasons why Lord Coe made the sporting legacy of the Olympics such a key part of London’s plans to host the Games. In conversations with members of the International Olympic Committee in the run-up to the bid in 2005, he outlined time and again the multiple benefts of sport and exercise for children from deprived backgrounds; not just the improvements to health, but the way it improves confdence, teaches values such as discipline and team work, and lends order and structure to chaotic lives. “Give us the Games, and one of the world’s great capital cities will be transformed,” he vowed. In the Copper Box, which I visit later the same day, activity leader Hannah Saad tells me she has noticed another welcome beneft. “It helps children to bond,” she says, catching her breath after a good-natured game of rounders at one end of the arena’s vast sports hall. “Our participants all come from different communities and backgrounds. Some of their families are well off, some aren’t. And they all mingle. Some talk about princes and some talk about their council estate, but they bond, and hear things they’ve never heard before.” 162 Baku.
sport improves lives. you create bonds with people that you never lose. And it can take you around the world.
PAUL KENDALL IS A FEATURES WRITER AT THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.
Opposite: the ArcelorMittal
Orbit sculpture and observation tower at the Olympic Park, designed by Anish Kapoor; an exterior view of the Aquatics Centre.
king is queen
the road to the podium is lined with potholes, as recordbreaking cyclist dani king reveals.
interview by ed needham
etween the hysteria of winning the bid and the thrill of the Olympic fame entering the stadium lies a huge amount of construction and disruption for a host city. It is essential that the local residents are onside – rewarded not only with spectacular venues that show off the city on the world stage, but also with a strong team to carry the hopes of the nation. Enter Dani King. As one of the women’s team pursuit cyclists, King, 24, duly obliged with a shiny gold medal for Team GB at London 2012. But she didn’t stop there. Together with teammates Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell, she smashed the world record in the fnal. “I don’t actually think about [winning the medal] that much,” she says, modestly. “But when things are tough or the weather is bad or I need some sort of pick-me-up, I think back to it and how incredible that moment was, and remind myself that that is what I am trying to achieve again.”
Since the 2012 Games, the team pursuit event has become a 4km race (up from 3km), so in preparation for the 2016 Games, King has chosen to spend the season racing on the road with the Wiggle Honda team, instead of on the track. “I was struggling with the extra kilometre of the race,” she says, “and I looked at the likes of Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins who, when they come off a full season on the road, are absolutely fying on the track. They have that sort of endurance that holds their speed for the last kilometre and it has never been tested with the women, so I decided that was my best chance of being able to cope.” That choice was one she nearly regretted last November when out training near her home in south Wales. “It was a normal 100km ride that I do week in, week out. We were riding two abreast and it was raining. The guy on my left hit a pothole hidden under water and fell into the group. I went over my handlebars, then someone behind me rode into my back. Ten ribs broken, punctured lung and intensive care. Two ribs were broken in two places, so if a piece of bone had become dislodged I would have only had a 50 per cent chance of living.” If anyone wonders what makes Olympic athletes different, King was soon doing
“easy pedalling on a static gym bike” while still wearing a chest drain. She claims she’s “in better shape now than I was before, due to having to really focus. I was so far behind after the accident and I got back into it with so much motivation.” She is also thrilled by the effect the 2012 Games have had on participation in the sport. “When I joined, I was the only girl in my cycling club that would turn up every week. But when I went back after the Olympics the number of girls there was incredible to see. It was amazing to think that that was part of the legacy.” And if anyone still thinks that elite competition is somehow less challenging for an Olympic champion, think again. In King’s frst race back after her injury – the frst event of the 2015 Women’s Road Series in a wet and freezing Northumberland in April – conditions were so horrible she got hypothermia. And still won.
the race is won There may have been a few sleepless nights along the way, but simon clegg, cEO of the European games, is impressed by the speed with which baku has readied itself in just 30 months. interview by ed needham portrait by GILES PRICE Why does Europe need its own Games? Europe is the only continent without its own games. There’s been a Pan American games and an Asian Games since 1951, an All-Africa Games and a Pacifc Games since the 1960s, and despite the athletic prowess and the commercial strength of Europe, there has to date not been a senior multisport continental event for the best athletes in Europe.
Is this a disadvantage for European athletes? Yes, because the rest of the world has woken up to the power of sport. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Europe won 74 per cent of all the medals available. Just 20 years later in Beijing, that had been whittled down to 38 per cent. Generally speaking, athletes compete better at their second Olympic Games than they do at their frst. The rationale behind this is that when they are taken out of the cocooned environment of their own sport and thrown into the multi-discipline arena, the sheer scale of these large events – and the fact that they are sitting down at the same table with household-name athletes from sports such as tennis and football – can be quite daunting. So if we can break down some of the myths and pressures of competing at a multi-sport event by creating an event like the European Games, that would be a very good thing from an athletic performance perspective.
Why are they being staged in Baku? In the late 1980s there were discussions about the creation of the European Games, but no one had the political will or the fnancial resources to take a risk in terms of trying to 166 Baku.
break into a very crowded sports calendar. President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan understands sport and agreed to stage this frst European Games here in Baku in 2015, just 30 months after the city was awarded the right to host the games.
So there has been a frenzy of construction? Azerbaijan is a very young, exciting and dynamic nation. It regained independence just 24 years ago, and a lot of the infrastructure here relating to high-level sporting facilities under the old Soviet regime had been starved of investment. Of course, the oil and natural gas resources that the country is lucky enough to enjoy have given it suffcient wealth to be able to make this level of investment. But there wasn’t even a national football stadium. There was no 50m swimming pool in the country, and as a result of the European Games, they have built one.
Has anything provided a particular logistical challenge? As President Aliyev has admitted, some of the systems and structures are taking time to develop after decades of Soviet rule. The current visa process, for example, has now reached the point where we have had to secure a presidential decree to allow anyone with accreditation to come in without needing a visa, and guarantee any individual with a ticket a visa on arrival at the airport. These are fairly signifcant issues when you are talking about matters of national security.
you’ve had to overcome some of the more dated practices, then? When you look at how far they have come in a relatively short period of time, it is quite astounding. Things can happen literally overnight. We have got the most fantastic offces overlooking the Caspian, but there is a major road in front of us. One afternoon I spoke to the authorities about needing some zebra crossings to allow the staff to cross the road to get lunch, and by nine o’clock the next morning we had two zebra crossings right in front of the building. Superb effciency! They lay concrete very quickly in this country – the skyline is changing almost on a weekly basis.
How have you found living in Baku and azerbaijan generally? I think of Baku as the Cannes of the Caspian. It is an amazing city – open and safe to walk around, and with very warm people. There is very little crime. And of the 11 climatic zones that are recognized internationally, Azerbaijan has nine of them.
Presumably the country doesn’t have an Arctic climate zone? No, but we do have alpine – there is a ski resort up in the mountains only about 240km from the city.
What can the athletes expect? The frst thing they’ll notice is the level of accommodation. It’s more generous than the 12 Olympic villages around the world that I have been privileged to live in with the British team.
In what way is it generous? I mean in terms of the square metres allocated per person. Often in an Olympic village two athletes are expected to live in an area that you would normally convert into a kitchen once the games are fnished.
What kept you awake at night during the preparations? Time. It doesn’t matter how much oil there is in the Caspian – and there is a lot of it out there – the one thing you can’t buy is time, and the clock was ticking. We had a huge amount of work to do because of how compressed this project was – 30 months compared with the seven years of preparation time for an Olympics or Winter Olympic Games.
Have you ever been an athlete yourself with ambitions to compete at a high level? I was once a very modest athlete when I competed in cross-country skiing and biathlon, so I am in awe of any individual with the dedication and focus to be able to call themselves an Olympian, particularly those who have achieved the ultimate sporting accolade of being able to call themselves an Olympic champion. When you get that title, it’s for life.
lucky charms the official mascots of the 2015 European Games in Baku represent nature and heritage – Meet Nar and Jeyran.
ne has a giant pomegranate for a head, the other is an elegant, dancing gazelle; both, in various ways, embody a country rich in culture, history and nature. If the symbolism of these mascots is not immediately apparent, allow us to explain. Nar is the boy mascot with a pomegranate head and is described as sun-loving and playful. He hails from Goychay, Azerbaijan’s central, subtropical city known as the pomegranate capital, where the fruit is celebrated each autumn with its very own festival such is the abundance of the harvest at that time of year. The superfood also features prominently in centuriesold recipes still in use all over the country. Jeyran takes her name from the Azerbaijani word for gazelle, and she is the Games’ cultural ambassador. The gazelle, a once endangered species that is now protected and beginning to fourish once again, has become a potent symbol of natural beauty, grace and purity within Azerbaijan. And, let’s face it, they are both rather cute.