Akmolinsk, Tselinograd, Akmola...
What do these names have in common?
Let me throw in another name, one that you bicycle racing aficionados may be able to identify:
So what is Nursultan?
Nursultan Nazarbayev is the president of a country named Kazakhstan. "Oh," you say. Yes he is. And his 68th birthday is coming up pretty quickly. It's also the 10th anniversary of Astana as Kazakhstan's capital.
Astana, in case you didn't know, simply means "The Capital".
A true brown noser in Kazakhstan's parliament suggested that Astana be renamed Nursultan in celebration for said 68th birthday. Apparently (unsurprisingly?) 90% of the parliament's deputies endorsed this name change. And the 10% nursing hangovers at home (or whatever in wherever) are ruing the day they missed being there to show support for their erstwhile leader.
Such a change would mean a lot of changes, lots of cost. All those signs all around the country telling you how many kilometers to Astana would have to be replaced. Everyone's maps would need to be updated, either by layover stickers (like my driver's license) or by new maps. Various charts would need to be changed, business cards for all those industries sponsoring the team, the list goes on and on.
This, of course, has huge ramifications for the Astana Cycling Team.
First of all, instead of being "The Capital Cycling Team" it will be renamed Nursultan Cycling Team. Doesn't sound as interesting, sort of Cat 3-ish in "feel" (I can say that because I'm a Cat 3). Nursultan sounds sort of like "neo-sultan" or "sort of sultan", not "we want to win every grand tour we enter (whether we get caught cheating or not)".
Nazarbayev sounds more insteresting, rolls off the tongue much better. Four syllables. Five would be ideal, but four works very well. It seems... sophisticated, very sophisticated. It might be my recent re-indoctrination with the whole Matrix series with the cool terra-ship they drive around with the puck-like bright engine things. Regardless, think of which would be better:
"And a Nursultan rider is off the front - it looks like Frei has attacked!"
"And a Nazarbayev rider is off the front - it looks like Neo, I mean Haselbacher*, has attacked!"
*(note the four syllable name - much better)
Nursultan just doesn't cut it for me, not as a pro cycling team name. There are others out there that aren't too appealing, but I don't want to name them for fear of offending the sponsors. The sponsors can't help their company name.
Name changes within a "company", I don't have a problem with that. Like Silence-Lotto was Predictor-Lotto but both of those are brand names belonging to one company. If the Dunkin Donuts team became the Iams team, it wouldn't make a big whoopdeedo because both are part of Procter & Gamble. And if P&G wants to use one brand over another, it's all good if they use their money to sponsor a cycling team.
It's not like a country that might rename its capital on a whim, especially when they have such a better name they could use.
Anyway, if you're a big fan of the Astana team, you may want to hold off on the Astana kit purchase. You may want to wait until the end of September 2008 before buying the kit.
By then it might be Nursultan (ugh) or, better in my opinion, Nazarbayev. If it isn't then the President there had some modest thoughts and decided to keep the name "The Capital".
Now what grand tour could resist inviting a team named Nazarbayev Cycling Team to their race?
We'll have to see in 2009.