With a population of just five million, Turkmenistan has become the world’s biggest user of marble, spending a grand total of $5 billion on the rock to decorate a new athletic complex to be used in 2017 for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. The billions were spent on roughly 217,000 square meters of marble, equivalent to about 28 soccer fields. Tennis courts, basketball stadiums, and hotels have all been clad in white marble. Many of the finishes have been chosen personally by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. While the country has long been criticized for human-rights issues, some hope the presence of the games will force it to institute reforms.
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