Prior to the meeting the President of Russia awarded the Order of Friendship to the President of the International University Sports Federation, member of the International Olympic Committee Claude-Louis Gallien.
Taking part in the meeting were United Nations Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace Wilfried Lemke, President of the International Swimming Federation (FINA) and member of the International Olympic Committee Julio Maglione, President of the International Judo Federation and President of International Organisation SportAccord Marius Vizer, President of the Association of International Sport For All Ju Ho-chang, and President of the World Chess Federation Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with heads of international sports organisations
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, before our informal meeting I would like to begin with a short official part.
I would like to thank Mr Gallien, the President of the International University Sports Federation, for everything he has done not only for the development of university sports in general, but for Russian university sports, for his help in preparing the University Games in Kazan, for the decision he and his colleagues made to hold the next University Games also in this country – in Krasnoyarsk, in 2019.
Everything Mr Gallien has done in the many years he has been heading university sports is, undoubtedly, a significant contribution to relations between nations and it helps develop sports among children and young people and sports in general, it helps promote humanitarian principles in world sports, such principles as ‘sports is free of politics’ and ‘sports serves to unite peoples and nations’. All this has largely been achieved through our guest’s efforts, talent and organisational skills.
I would like to thank you for this and present to you this prestigious Russian government award – the Order of Friendship. Thank you very much.
Friends, allow me to once again welcome you to Russia, this time in one of our republics – Chuvashia.
As you may know, here in Russia we have been giving significant attention to sports, at least recently, and we have been promoting it on the entire territory of the Russian Federation. Just as before, we will be prepared to carry on our cooperation with our friends all over the world and will assist in holding major international sports forums and competitions all over the world, and in this country as well. As you may know, apart from the Sochi Olympics, we are prepared and will hold fencing, wrestling and other competitions, including water sports. We have great plans – like the Ice Hockey World Championship, and so forth.
We will prepare sports facilities, and we will cooperate with you in all these efforts. I strongly hope that everything we have achieved so far will form the foundation of our future relations. I would like to thank you for finding the time to visit Russia today.
Thank you for your attention.
Vladimir Putin: With us today is Mr Lemke, the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace. Mr Lemke, I ask you to say a few words too.
Un Secretary General’S Special Adviser On Sport For Development and Peace Wilfried Lemke:
Thank you so much Mr President for inviting us here to this wonderful place. I am deeply impressed with this big event. Also, boring the other colleagues, I just want to mention very quickly the three, no the four, most important issues that I presented to my colleagues this morning. First of all, thank you so much for the great success of Sochi. When I read the newspapers before, I got very angry because in the western hemisphere we hear very, very bad stories and I came to Sochi twice for the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics and I didn’t see anything of what I was told. What I saw was the best organised, the most safe and the best traffic, everything, perfect, and especially, what is most important, the athletes praised these Winter Games. So thank you for that and for your wonderful volunteers, you can be very proud of so many thousands of young boys and girls, coming from all parts of Russia, and hosting us in a very special, very nice, positive way.
Secondly, I would like to foster you and to support you to do more in any way for education for your children, and part of education, definitely, and you know it as well as all of us because you are a former athlete and still, I heard from Marius, you are still in shape, and sports, this is something that we have to deliver for our children. This way that our children are doing their exercises, I hate that, but it’s the truth that we have to get them out of using these mobiles and have to bring them out to the halls and to the pitches, and also to have fun and for the social development. So, education all over the world is a key factor. Sport and politics, Marius also mentioned this very important point. I feel very bad when I always see, when there are big events, and we have in front of us negative things in the media, and it was in Beijing, it was in London – not so much in London – but in Beijing, and then of course in Sochi, and I cannot understand this politics and this interfering in the values of sport. Sport cannot stop tanks. We don’t have the power to stop tanks, but we do have a sports family, and so I have to say that you, as a President, are not only a politician, but also a member of the sports family, and so for me it is very important that we do everything to use any power for building bridges and bringing people together.
And just what you mentioned about friendship, first of all, and this is very, very necessary, you have to respect each other. And then, if you respect each other, it doesn’t matter which religion, which culture, which mother tongue. If you respect each other, then you can become a friend, and this is our task for the future.
One final sentence, we are all looking not only for the FINA championship next year, because Julio is here with us, I have to say this, but we are all looking forward to the world cup, and believe me, they will tell a lot of stories about what is not going well here and why they have to boycott this thing, all of this. We love football and we are looking forward for Russia to have wonderful matches, and I would be very happy if I could also join you for it later here in Russia to have wonderful matches. And who knows who will be the other seven to one. So, thank you once again for your support of the international sport.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much, Mr Lemke.
I want to come back to what you and Marius both said just now, namely, that sport is a natural bridge between countries and peoples, perhaps one of the few bridges that link people and offer us a wonderful example of cooperation. You just said that sport teaches us to respect each other, and this is indeed the case. Trainers all around the world always teach their students a spirit of respect for their opponents, always and practically everywhere. I recall how when I was a child our trainer said, “No matter whether you face a strong or weak opponent, you must always respect them.” Only this can lay the foundation for normal cooperation and interaction. That is why this is so very important.
As for politics attempting to interfere in sport, this is nothing new. Politics always tries to interfere in everything else, but thanks to the world’s sports organisers, sport has managed to stay out of the fray so far and continue its vitally important mission of promoting cooperation between people. Here in Russia we probably also have a lot more work to do to enable sport to fulfil its lofty mission. We too probably make many mistakes and have many areas for improvement, including in our relations with our partners. It is always so in life, but we must try whatever the case to support sport’s lofty mission and we will continue to do everything we can to help make this happen.
Vladimir Putin: Friends, we make an effort to support sporting traditions in various areas here in Russia. One of our traditions is an emphasis on chess, and I hope very much that we will host in worthy fashion the world chess championship, which will also take place in our Olympic city of Sochi.
With us here today is Mr Ilyumzhinov, who was recently re-elected to the high office of President of the World Chess Federation. Please, tell us about how the preparations are going and what we need to do to make sure that this event takes place at the highest level.
President of the World Chess Federation Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: Thank you very much, Mr President.
The World Chess Federation (FIDE) is the biggest federation with 181 member countries. We are also in first place now for the number of competitions and participants. The FIDE annual calendar of events currently counts more than 100,000 competitions and around 600 million people around the globe play chess now. This makes the world championship a particularly important event in the FIDE calendar and we have decided to hold it in Sochi, in the Olympic Village.
There are two reasons for this. First is to continue the tradition of holding the biggest chess competitions at international sports centres. In 1998, for example, we held the world championship at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. Juan Antonio Samaranch opened the event, which was won by Anatoly Karpov. In 2006, we held the World Chess Olympics in Turin, in the same Olympic Village where the Winter Olympics took place.
So when the general assembly raised the question at the FIDE Presidential Council, the proposal was made to hold the event in Sochi, at the Olympic Village’s Media Centre. Many agreed with this idea and started asking what it is like there, wanted to see it for themselves. Many had seen it on TV and said, “We’ll go there too and see this beauty for ourselves.” Of course, the decision was unanimous.
Politics then started to intervene. Mr Lemke spoke today about how people try to drag politics into sport. In August, when FIDE was supposed to sign the contract, one of the participants, Viswanathan Anand, an international grandmaster and many-times world champion, signed the contract with FIDE straight away and agreed to Sochi. He sent his wife and team representatives to choose the hotel where he would stay.
But then came a statement from current world champion, Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, who people call the wunderkind of the chess world. He sent a letter saying he refuses to play in Sochi and in the Russian Federation for the simple reason that the political climate is not very calm here. (Laughter) We sent him a letter in reply asking him what he meant by a not very calm political situation here, and he wrote about Ukraine in response. Look at where Ukraine is and where Sochi is. Anyway, he refused to come.
The event was in danger of not going ahead. Some European countries started suggesting that we choose a different venue. But we fought for the event as we’d planned it because chess is outside politics. We therefore made a proposal that world champion Magnus Carlsen couldn’t refuse. We gave him until September 7 and said that if he did not sign the contract, we would strip him of his world chess champion title and file a suit against him at the sports arbitration court in Lausanne for a fine of several million dollars.
This sobered him up somewhat. He sent a letter saying he agrees. He sent his father and even his team, and they looked around, studied the place and chose a hotel. But he said that he would come a week earlier because he likes skiing and wants to get some time to practise.
After he accepted the proposal, many champions then started asking if they could come or not. We invited all world champions. Boris Spassky, Nona Gaprindashvili, Judit Polgar, Maia Chiburdanidze and Anatoly Karpov have all agreed to come and attend the opening. We also invited Garry Kasparov, but he wrote to say that he could certainly come, but would he be allowed to leave again? Again we see how people are politicising the situation. (Laughter).
Mr President, the members of the Presidential Council, representatives of 30 countries, very much want you to attend too. The members of the Presidential Council will be there together with the world champions. The Presidential Council and the World Chess Federation ask you to take part in the opening and make the first move – it can be е2–е4.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. I think it isn’t worth getting too obsessed with the problem of sport’s politicisation. That includes the Norwegian chess player’s case too. Unfortunately, attempts are made to put pressure on sportspeople, and so I think the best thing to do is not to add to it, not let this issue spread even further. We will be happy to see all of these outstanding sportspeople, including Kasparov. He has not turned out the most effective politician so far, but he is an outstanding chess player.
We will be happy to see everyone and we hope that everyone will take part and enjoy this wonderful game and give chess fans all around the world the chance to celebrate chess. This is important, all the more so here in Russia, where chess has longstanding traditions and a wonderful school that goes back a long way. We have produced many world champions and the game is developing now, going through an active revival. We are very pleased to see this, just as we are pleased to see other sports develop too.
Let me say again that we will always hold the door open for all sportspeople and specialists. We are happy to welcome you at any time and in any place in Russia and will organise competitions at every level. In short, we will work together and see this event as a sports celebration not just for Russia but for sports lovers all around the world, and as part of hard but very necessary and important work.
Thank you very much.