Gomel is the administrative centre of Gomel Voblast and with 526,872 inhabitants (2015 census) the second-most populous city of Belarus.
There are at least six narratives of the origin of the city’s Belarusian name. One of the more plausible is that the name is derived from the name of the stream Homeyuk, which flowed into river Sozh near the foot of the hill where the first settlement was founded. Names of other Belarusian cities are formed along these lines: for example, the name Minsk is derived from the river Menka, Polatsk from the river Palata, and Vitsebsk from the river Vitsba. In historical sources from 1142 to the 16th century, the city is mentioned as Hom', Homye, Homiy, Homey, or Homyi. These forms are tentatively explained as derivatives of an unattested *gomŭ of uncertain meaning. The modern name for the city has been in use only since the 16th–17th centuries.
During the Soviet period, another story about the city's name was popular: raftsmen on the river Sozh supposedly warned each other about the danger of running into sandy shallows by shouting «Ho! Ho! Mel!». A more recent narrative, propagated by some modern researchers, is that the name is derived from an ancient Belarusian greeting: «Dats u homel», which means «to pat on the shoulder».
Gomel is situated in the southeastern part of the country, on the right bank of the river Sozh, 302 km (188 mi) south-east of Minsk, 534 km (332 mi) east of Brest, 171 km (106 mi) south of Mogilev, 237 km (147 mi) west of Bryansk and 111 km (69 mi) north of Chernihiv.
The terrain on which the city as a whole is built, is flat. On the right bank of the river, it is a gradually decreasing plain water-glacial and fluvial terrace of the Sozh river. The left bank is a low-lying alluvial plain. The highest elevation of 144 meters above sea level is found at the northern outskirts of Gomel, the lowest elevation of 115 m at the water boundary Sozh river. Novobelitskiy district, which is located on the left bank of the river (i.e., towards the south), has elevations averaging of 10–15 meters lower than the northern and central parts of the city.
On the left bank of the Sozh many kilometers of beaches can be found.
The climate of Gomel the moderate and continental. Warm summers and soft winters are caused by frequent arrival of warm sea air masses from the Atlantic and the dominating western transfer.
To overcome the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster and to improve the health of the population, the government has paid considerable attention to sports and sports facilities.
Gomel is home to a wide range of sports facilities that have been developed and improved in recent years. These facilities, including eight stadiums and the Ice Palace, which has two ice arenas, support common activities such as hockey, track and field, and football (American Soccer). The Central Stadium is the home of Gomel’s local football club, FC Gomel. Gomel hosts multiple international competitions in these facilities, the annual “Bells of Chernobyl” competition being one of the many. In addition to sports facilities, Gomel has a multitude of Olympic Reserve Schools, which is more commonly referred to as sports schools.
Many of Gomel's sports schools prepare athletes from a young age. Numerous champions have been trained by schools such as these. For example, one school, Gomel’s Olympic Reserve Number 4, has trained 97 World and European champions as well as two Olympic athletes. Gomel State College of Olympic Reserve, on the other hand, trains coaches rather than athletes. From this school, 44 graduates have participated in the Olympics, European championships, and World championships. Gomel also participates in the Deaflympics and, between the years 2007-2009, has been awarded: two gold medals, one silver medal, and two bronze medals.
Since 1990, P.O. Sukhoy Homiel State Technical University and Gomel State Medical University have attracted many international students from countries around world, including the United States, Germany, China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Iran and countries in Latin America. Gomel State Medical University provides classes in both English and Russian. Many prominent scientists work here as senior lecturers.