Items on the agenda included developing mass sport and physical education, introducing a national sports and fitness system, the results of the Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, preparing athletes for the next Winter Olympics in 2018 in PyeongChang, and developing Winter Olympic and Paralympic sports in Russia.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,
The ceremony presenting state decorations to those who made a particular contribution to organising the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi has just ended.
The Council for the Development of Physical Culture and Sport was one of the most active participants in this work and some of our colleagues, members of the Council, were among those whose efforts were recognised with decorations today. Once more, I congratulate you and thank you for your work.
At the same time, I want to stress too that this big Olympic project was the result of the efforts made by hundreds of thousands of people, and that is no exaggeration.
I am sure that everyone who played their part in this project felt the greatest joy and satisfaction at seeing a job well done that gave our country and the entire world such a magnificent celebration. This has given us yet another reason to be proud of our country.
The active involvement and well-coordinated work between the various organisations and companies, the Russian Olympic Committee and the sports federations made it possible for everyone to fulfil their obligations and hold what the experts, guests and athletes say were outstanding Games. And most importantly, their combined efforts have given us this immense Olympic legacy that will serve our people for many years to come.
I think that one important part of this legacy is that sport is more popular now and a healthy lifestyle has gained in prestige. Incidentally, all around the country, thousands of people, above all young people, joined sports clubs and started going to gyms. Clearly, our athletes’ brilliant performances inspired them.
That our country took first place in the overall team medal tallies in the Olympics and Paralympics is proof of our people’s growing interest in sport and Russia’s return as one of the global leaders in sport. It is our big task now to maintain this position. It would be far too early of course to sit back and rest on our laurels. Indeed, this would only do us harm. We need to always keep moving forward. We all know that things start regressing the minute you stop moving forward.
We certainly had some breakthrough victories, that was to be sure. It’s enough to recall the Paralympic team’s performance in sledge hockey. This was their first Paralympics, but they immediately won second place and in the preliminary stage of the competition even defeated the team that went on to win the gold medal.
At the Olympics, our athletes also did well in events in which we had not had such good results in the past. For all the success though, we still need to make a thorough analysis of the overall picture and come to the relevant conclusions and decisions. This concerns above all the sports in which we have traditionally been strong: biathlon, cross-country skiing, and hockey of course, which this time turned out to be a big disappointment, to put it mildly, for our fans.
I think the experts are fair in saying that our hockey team is facing the same kind of systemic problems that we have been having in other team sports too, including summer sports such as football, the most popular team sport.
There do not always seem to be convincing reasons for the near universal practice of bringing in foreign players and coaches, and the current system of filling places on clubs’ teams does not take into account our national teams’ interests and is not designed for reaching our strategic objectives.
We need to organise work in such a way as to raise Russian players’ and coaches’ overall professional level, find talented athletes who know how to make their mark, and build them up into real teams that work together well and trust each other. Only then will we have hopes for victory.
Of course this is not to say that we should not take on any foreign specialists. Many of these people work very productively and produce excellent results, especially in sports in which we are still only in the process of developing our national school. Bringing in foreigners is not the issue. The issue is that we should take them on in cases where this is justified, is something we have thought through carefully, and is really needed. We need their help in establishing our own national training school in sports in which we are still newcomers for now.
In this respect, I ask you to define procedures and grounds for bringing in foreign specialists in summer and winter sports. The Sports Ministry will be responsible for enforcing these procedures and this will be enshrined in law.
Alpine skiing also requires our attention too, and sports such as Nordic combined, ski jumping, and curling. Our results in these events clearly did not measure up to our potential.
Our speed skaters are also capable of more. There are a lot of talented young people in this sport. We do not have such reserves to draw on yet in snowboard and short track though. We also need to be more active about developing recent additions to the Olympic programme such as slopestyle and half-pipe. The huge interest these events drew in Sochi will only grow, and we all realise this. These sports are very popular among young people. These and many other tasks need to be included in the programme for getting our athletes ready for the Winter Olympics in 2018 in Korea. You need to start work on this programme without delay.
At the same time, I ask you to present general measures for raising the quality of our national teams’ preparation. In particular, you need to set out clear procedures in responsibility for and monitoring preparation, and actively develop and introduce the latest scientific and technological advances in sports and fitness. This includes drawing on the resources of the Russian International Olympic University and the Sports Ministry’s Federal Scientific Centre.
We need to give our athletes medical and biomedical support that meets the demands of the times. We have reached a decent level today, but we need to develop and implement new programmes too. We also need to analyse the situation with the national sports federations and propose ways of optimising the national federations’ work taking into account international expertise. In sport, as I said, we need a systemic and comprehensive approach that will consolidate our results and create a solid foundation for the future. It is clear that mass sport plays a particular part in this work because it is mass sport that provides us with the talent pool we can then draw on for top-level sport. But even more important, mass sport is the basis for a healthy lifestyle and a healthy nation.
We will discuss today what we need to do to develop mass sport and make it more accessible for people of all ages and health conditions. In short, we need to work out how to get the vast majority of our people involved in regular sport and fitness. One of the initiatives in this area was the proposal to revive the national fitness system, which in the past helped to raise several generations of healthy and active people. I have signed an executive order launching this project, and we have decided to keep the old name – Ready for Labour and Defence – as tribute to our country’s history. This modernised system would set fitness standards for 11 different age groups, starting from the age of six.
But launching this programme also raises the question of venues for sport and fitness. We need a network of non-commercial local sport and fitness clubs close to people’s homes and workplaces, in other words, places right close at hand. We need sports facilities that are economically justified, inexpensive but modern and comfortable for sport and fitness, including outdoors. Of course, we also need to develop and make better use of schools’ sports infrastructure too.
Yet another way of encouraging people to get into sport could be to introduce incentives through the medical insurance organisations, incentives to encourage those who live a healthy lifestyle, get regular medical check-ups, and have not made any insurance claims during the last calendar year.
It would also make sense to add new measures to the standard list of employers’ measures to improve workplace health and safety. For example, employers could include in the benefits packages they offer their workers the possibility of being compensated for taking part in sports clubs and groups.
We all know too how big a motivating factor sports competitions can be. I am not just talking about big international events, but also competitions that are very popular among our people, events such as the national cross-country skiing race, or the national cross-country run, as well as various competitions in sports practiced in the different Russian regions.
The international movement Sport for All supports these kinds of events. This useful project, organised by the International Olympic Committee and UNESCO’s International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education, specifically promotes mass sport and a lifestyle in which sport and being physically active are important parts of our general culture.
I think we should implement this movement’s programmes, especially at local and regional level, and ensure the conditions for developing public initiative and public management. I ask the Russian Olympic Committee and the Sports Ministry to draft the relevant proposals.
Let me add that the 2014 federal budget still has money that was originally earmarked for the Olympics in Sochi. We did not spend all of this money, and put it to use. Effective management of the Olympic and Paralympic projects also brought in sizeable profits.
I propose that we use this money for developing mass sport, including for implementing the national fitness system programme in the regions, carrying out the Sport for All movement’s programme, and supporting the development of local sports and fitness clubs.
Let me say again that the Olympics and Paralympics showed that Russia is again one of the global sports leaders. This high status places particular responsibility on us, above all for promoting the values of sport and a healthy and active way of life for everyone without exception in our country. This is possible only if the whole of society joins in to make a combined effort.
Let’s discuss all of these issues in detail now.