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The Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi was held as a big international event and being an Indian ambassador for this international event is a great opportunity for me to experience such vibrant and diverse environment. Almost 25 thousand young people from 188 countries participated in the Festival. Five thousand volunteers assisted the organizers of the event, including 100 UN volunteers. The event attracted great attention of the world media – 1,364 journalists registered at the Festival; 1,364 speakers arrived to Sochi, and more than 3,000 experts helped to prepare sessions, discussions and round tables.

I was there for 9 days in Sochi and each day was so different with the opportunity to meet people from different fields and different parts of the world. Panel Discussions, Casting auditions, Intercultural exchange, TED talks, Musicals, Day long rehearsals, Classical Performances, New friends, Diwali Celebrations, Long walks, chit chats, instant meals, Cultural shows, Grand presentations, Proud moments, Technology insights, hectic days, Robot Shows, International stalls, Day trip to Rosa Khutor, Shopping…..In a nut shell, this is what WFYS was all about.

The organizers distributed free tickets to Sochi-Park, one of the best amusement parks in the world but the rich discussion program and cultural performances took priority for me. I couldn’t go to the amusement park but was amused with the level of content and exposure the festival offered us. The educational programme and discussions were so interesting covering every field- Science, technology, Arts, Culture, Politics, Health, Environment, Geography etc. You name a field; WFYS has an event on that. There were more than 800 of panel discussions and TED talks happened. We had to register for events prior and even for scrolling at the entire calendar of the day used to take 30 mins. Such is the magnitude of the festival.

Being a chemical engineer and an active Indian classical dancer, International Culture Space and Sustainable development were the two topics I was interested and chose to attend the discussions on them. I was glad to be a part of the discussion “How Arts can improve Society’s moral agenda?” and contribute my two cents. Attending the discussions on “World cultures- Global challenges” also enlightened me with the perspectives of people from nook and corner of the world.

The discussion forum: How can arts improve society's moral agenda?

“7 world's big challenges and global sustainable development strategy in the eyes of youth”- was the discussion I found very interesting listening to the global challenges and the solutions offered. This was the platform I realized people exist with different thinking all together. Whatever I thought as a threat also was proved to be a great opportunity. And that’s what I think a global platform offers. EXPOSURE!!

The opening ceremony which was presented in Bolshoi Ice Palace of Sochi was a heads up to what gigantic week it is going to be for us. Not aware that the president of Russia is going to inaugurate the festival, it was a pleasant surprise for every one of us. My father used to tell me about Putin and I was thrilled to see him few rows ahead of me. The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin took the stage and officially opened the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students. Mr Putin wished the participants to “Have a great journey!” “The young generation always brings innovative ideas into the world. It’s customary for you to experiment, to argue. Go on! Create your future! Dare to change the world, make it a better place. It’s all in your hands! Just keep going forward”, said Vladimir Putin.

Photo courtesy: Michael Metzel / photo-agency TASS

Being an artist, my view of looking at the ceremony was entirely different. I was keen on knowing the names, their works, their approach to the presentation, the huge sets they used, the team work they underwent, lights, costumes etc. etc..

Igor Krutoi, famous music producer and Alexei Sechenov, member of the Russian Television Academy produced the opening ceremony. This is not their first project together as they already did work on huge events- 27th Summer Universiade, 7th Winter Asian Olympics, 16th FINA Water Sports championship among others. I felt lucky to have witnessed a show present by such big names in the cultural space.

The ceremony was dedicated to the key problems of modern world. Speakers from different parts of the world who made a difference in resolving global issues have been invited to take part. Their speeches intertwined with performances by Russian celebrities like Dima Bilan, Polina Gagarina, Teona Dolnikova, Nyusha, Alexander Panayotov, Yulia Parshuta, Tolmachevi sisters, Sergei Lazarev. I was looking how they mixed the theatre, dance and global challenges and it was absolutely spectacular to watch the ceremony.

Really glad to see India’s youth icon “Afroz Shah” on stage. On the whole, the event inspired us to take initiative and bring change to live in a better world. And then came the band “OneRepublic”….All of us went crazy listening to one of the most famous singles Apologize. A great start to the festival.

Photo courtesy: Michael Metzel / photo-agency TASS

Next few days went very busy with panel discussions and rehearsals for the musical (It was amazing getting selected to be a part of Russian musical in the casting call which invited delegates from 183 countries. For a detailed post on the musical experience, please click here). Glad that I could attend a foresight session on technologies of the future. The foresight session aimed at listing the global trends, understanding threats and opportunities for a particular stake holder and providing solution considering how a threat can be solved and how an opportunity can be utilized. Unfortunately couldn’t attend the subsequent sessions as they were clashing with the musical rehearsals. But foresight session was a brilliant idea by the organizers who taught us strategic brain storming.

Photo courtesy: photo-agency TASS /Masha

The whole Indian community in the Olympic park came together to celebrate Diwali in the Russian land and I presented Indian classical dance at two venues on 19th Oct 2017. At the Main Media centre as a part of Indian Diwali Celebrations and at Ruskidom (an open stage in freezing cold environment). It was thrilling dancing here to the crowd.

On the final day of the festival, I witnessed a majestic show RUSSIA in the Medals Plaza – a concert with the video show which symbolized blossoming folk culture in the era of Instagram and YouTube and showed the whole Russia: cities of their country, sights and cultural make-up of different peoples. Besides folk bands, popular Russian artists and groups also took part in the concert. It was the best opportunity for me to get acquainted with the national popular art of the host country. I was so thrilled to see the diversity offered by the world’s largest country.

The Closing Ceremony called Awakening was natural continuation of the Festival Opening Ceremony, in which the characters of the show told their real stories and illustrated how much humanity can achieve united. Therefore, one of the key elements of the Closing Ceremony was the message “Let's Change the World”. This message brought together the dreams, wishes and hopes that we hope to take into the future.

Participants of the Festival made up a big rock orchestra on stage and performed world top hits. After all, music is a universal language. It united and inspired all of us and made our imagination fly. The stadium turned into a big dancing planet, comprised of billions of people consolidated with the rhythm and goal – to make the world a better place.

And any festival won’t end with beautiful fireworks and so was World festival of Youth & Students. I left Sochi with a strong charge of optimism and energy. The lively and very humane atmosphere of the Festival created a fertile ground for contacts. We have exchanged phone numbers, social network profiles and made friends. After visiting the festival, now I have a completely different view of Russia. I found Russia to be very welcoming and cordial. Sochi, being in the tropical zone, the weather was not too bad and on the whole, it was a great experience. I thank Ministry of Youth Affairs for nominating me to represent our country on a global platform and a big hug to all my family members for making my dream come true.

If you would like to know more about the application process for this festival, please click here

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