President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Zhukov, we already discussed the results of the Olympic Games at meetings at the Sports Ministry, and the Government and individual sports federations. I agreed to meet with you separately though as head of our national Olympic committee to discuss this subject.
What is your assessment? Do you see any new problems or issues? I would like us to get away from the overall political cost and just focus on the sports development problems.
We are preparing for the Council for Physical Culture and Sports’ meeting in October. I hope the national Olympic committee will take an active part in the preparations and in the Council meeting itself.
President of the Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov: Yes, Mr President, we will certainly prepare for this. The various federations are currently reviewing the Olympic results and we will present our report at the Council meeting.
Overall, I think our team performed very well. Faced with difficult conditions, the majority of our federations managed to put together very good teams. The athletes themselves demonstrated determination to win and truly great skill in what was not the simplest situation, and I think that our results at these Olympic Games were not bad at all.
We will report to you in detail on all of these matters. In our view, the main result of these Games is the tremendous interest in sport that we see in many parts of the country. Our Olympic athletes have returned home now. Our medallists are getting rapturous receptions and large numbers of children are now joining sports clubs. This is simply wonderful to see.
Vladimir Putin: One very important aspect of high performance sport is that it can do so much to promote mass sport and spark interest in sport and a healthy lifestyle.
You are also a State Duma deputy and Duma deputy speaker. Which region are you running in now?
Alexander Zhukov: I head the United Russia group in Novosibirsk and Omsk.
Vladimir Putin: Novosibirsk and Omsk both have very good programmes for sports development and building the necessary infrastructure. After all, it is not possible to develop sports, especially mass sport, without proper facilities and indoor sports arenas, and this is particularly true in Siberia. Are you updated on what is planned in this area there?
Alexander Zhukov: Yes, Mr President. What’s interesting is that athletes from Novosibirsk, Omsk and Siberia in general performed with great success at these Olympics. By the way, we have two Olympic champions from Novosibirsk. One is Roman Vlasov in Greco-Roman wrestling, who is now two-time Olympic champion and following in the footsteps of Alexander Karelin. Our fencers performed very well too. Yulia Gavrilova won. You can’t imagine the huge number of children signing up to do fencing after this.
A new fencing centre has opened now, but even this is not enough to fit everyone. That’s just to show how great an impact the Olympic Games and the examples of our top athletes have had.
The same is true in Omsk. They have a strong school of rhythmic gymnastics there. Vera Biryukova was part of the winning rhythmic gymnastics team and we are now seeing a great influx of children wanting to take up rhythmic gymnastics too.
It is good that Novosibirsk and Omsk are both carrying out the programme to build physical fitness and health centres. I think the programme to rebuild gyms in rural schools is also a particularly important initiative as this is essentially the only chance the children there have to practice sports.
We who were in the outgoing Duma and in United Russia think that these two programmes, the one to build fitness and health centres and swimming pools, and particularly the programme to repair rural school gyms and village stadiums, are very effective. They make it possible for children to practice sport, and not for just children, but for the entire population to lead a healthy lifestyle. I think it important to continue these programmes. They have great support among the local people.
Vladimir Putin: We must help the regions and municipalities to carry out these plans.
Let’s get back to the Sports Council. I ask you to take part in the upcoming meeting’s preparations. Do you have any thoughts or proposals on this subject?
Alexander Zhukov: Yes, I do have some thoughts. As I said, most of the federations produced good results, but in some cases we do need to recommend that certain decisions be made. I can say that overall, the system of goal-focused preparation according to individual programmes for the different sports disciplines has proven its worth. This ensured an individual approach to the athletes. We will brief you on this.
Vladimir Putin: Ok. I met with the Olympic athletes and, if you recall, some of them, even some of the gold medallists, made concrete requests and noted that much still needs to be done to develop some sports (handball, for example, and other sports). Let’s not forget this. I want you to examine and summarise these requests and formulate proposals on what to do next.
Alexander Zhukov: We will do this, Mr President, and will report back on the situation in the different sports. In cases where greater state support is needed in terms of building important sports facilities and so on, we will draft and present proposals.
I think that holding major sports events in Russia is also very important. Novosibirsk, as you know (we discussed this at the last State Council meeting), dreams of hosting the world youth ice hockey championship. You expressed support for this idea. The Government has already approved a decision to support the bid and the matter is now in the hands of the International Ice Hockey Federation. Rene Fasel [President of the International Ice Hockey Federation] knows how much we love ice hockey in Novosibirsk and supports our bid too.
I hope very much that this decision will be approved and that we will carry out our project to build a new ice hockey stadium. This is essential for an ice hockey-loving city like Novosibirsk because the current stadium dates from the 1970s and has become rather outdated and worn out. I think this is an important project.
Vladimir Putin: I hope this will all be carried out.
Alexander Zhukov: Thank you.