The meeting focused on the development of high performance sports in Russia following an analysis of Russian athletes’ performance at the London 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games.
Other issues discussed included the preparation of Russian national teams for international competitions, training of sports reserve, as well as staffing sports schools.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Today’s meeting of the Council is devoted to the preparation of our national teams for major international competitions.
All of us want Russia to have major, memorable sports victories. We need them because they help to boost moral fortitude and patriotism at home and strengthen our nation’s prestige abroad. Most importantly, such events promote a healthy and active lifestyle and make sport the top choice of millions of our citizens, especially young people.
Therefore, now at the start of the next Olympic cycle, we must clearly define our priorities and the logic of our actions. Above all, we must conduct a comprehensive analysis of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The experience of those games should become our guide to action so to speak. You must look and analyse once again the athletes’ performances, and the way their training programme was reflected in the results.
We all know that sports victories are achieved through long and intensive training. The results achieved at competitions demonstrate the effectiveness of training programmes. The 2012 Olympics were no exception. We witnessed the achievements of sports federations and regional organisations; we saw where the training programmes were exceptional, where they fell short and where they were clearly unsatisfactory.
”Major, memorable sports victories help to boost moral fortitude and patriotism at home and strengthen our nation’s prestige abroad. Such events promote a healthy and active lifestyle and make sport the top choice of millions of our citizens, especially young people.“
Competition in world sports, and all of us know this, is becoming tougher every year. Today it goes beyond competition between athletes and coaching schools. All the participants involved in training athletes also take part in the struggle, including coaches, managers, teachers, scientists and healthcare workers. Those who are able to take advantage of the entire range of modern methods and opportunities, those who provide quality training at each step on the way to victory are the ones who make it to the pedestal.
According to the plans developed by sports federations and the Sports Ministry, Russian athletes should be able to win gold medals in 20 out of 37 Olympic sports, but the performances at London Olympics did not meet these high expectations. Now it is extremely important to take steps to help our athletes achieve success and represent Russia with honour at the world’s sporting arenas.
One of our main objectives is to train a sports reserve. This issue is closely linked to the general physical fitness of children and young people. There have been some achievements in this area in recent years; we have seen a growth in the number of stadiums, swimming pools, sports fields and clubs. However, for the majority of children – I want to stress that I am talking about the majority – there are still not enough opportunities to engage in sports. This is a nationwide problem, and not a sectoral one. I firmly believe it could be addressed much faster with a more proactive, involved and aggressive position of the Sports Ministry and the Education Ministry.
We need to build a comprehensive system that would primarily contribute to the development of sports skills in children and make it easier to identify gifted athletes from an early age, starting with pre-schools, which have practically no physical education lessons as things stand.
The situation is not much better at schools. We have introduced an additional physical education lesson per week, but the training programme has not been adjusted. A purely formal approach remains common, despite the fact that it has not been very effective in promoting widespread involvement in fitness and sports among children, and therefore slowed down their choice of a particular sport they could engage and succeed in later. Clearly, this situation must be turned around. Sport among university students must be taken to a qualitatively new level, and I have talked about this many times. I ask the Education Minister to report today on the implementation of these decisions.
”Russian athletes should be able to win gold medals in 20 out of 37 Olympic sports. It is extremely important to take steps to help our athletes achieve success and represent Russia with honour at the world’s sporting arenas.“
Now for the sports schools. Today Russia has 52 Olympic reserve schools, 984 specialised Olympic reserve schools and 3,831 sports schools for children and teenagers. In total, they train over 3.1 million young people but even more children could become involved. We have 317 fewer specialised schools than we had in 2007. Nobody can be satisfied with this negative trend.
I would like to stress that a single agency should be responsible for all Olympic reserve schools; it will be in charge of their financial security and the quality of training programmes. Therefore, it is necessary to complete the transition of specialised schools to the Sports Ministry. We've already talked about this and have received numerous requests from people across the country. The most important factor in the general education system is the multifaceted development of an individual, whereas here we are dealing with special schools, so they should focus on sport and on training athletes capable of achieving outstanding results in the future. The Ministry should also be in charge of Olympic reserve schools. We should also think about the format for the Ministry’s involvement in the activities of children’s sports schools.
The next issue concerns the condition and equipment of sports facilities where athletes train. As you know, this is an area where a great deal has been done in recent years. New modern facilities have appeared, and I have seen them for myself and have taken part in planning them and monitored the construction process. The Sports Ministry has done some good work here, but we have to admit that there are not enough such sports facilities, and many athletes are forced to train abroad.
Paralympic athletes also have problems with training for the Games. The swimmers and track and field athletes, who compete for 318 medals out of 503, had problems with finding time for practice. It was not easy for them because all the training facilities were booked up by the Olympic teams.
Our objective is to build a sufficient number of training centres by 2015 and to supply them with modern equipment. I ask the Sports Minister to tell us today how this initiative has been progressing. I know that these plans are in place, the funding has been allocated and the work is in progress. How effective is it?
The issue of coaching staff remains acute. The number of big-name coaching schools is declining. Increasingly, our national teams are trained by foreign coaches. It is normal practice for foreign experts to be invited from abroad; it is used all over the world. The problem arises when the main goal becomes to win here and now, the transfer of international experience and technology to Russian coaches is not organised. In some countries, for example, the contracts offered to such invited foreign experts stipulate that the visiting foreign coach will work with local coaches and train them on top of training the athletes. I think this is a sound, systematic approach and we must introduce it where this practice is not widespread. It is used in some areas in our country but far from everywhere.
Russia has 9,000 qualified sports graduates every year, and statistics show that employment is high among them, over 80%. But we must recognise that the employment market in the field of physical education and sport is not attractive at present. Demand is high only in sectors that pay well, and that does not include children’s sports schools or municipal clubs, nor even research. In essence, the sectors that work for the future and for future victories are not among the most attractive career choices.
”We need to build a comprehensive system that would primarily contribute to the development of sports skills in children and make it easier to identify gifted athletes from an early age.“
Today I would like to hear your suggestions on ways to ensure an inflow of talent, to interest influential coaches in working in their home country and training new generations of coaches.
Another issue is the development of sports science. In this area, we have addressed only the priority issues of biomedical support for athletes. We should be happy that even this much has been achieved, although there is much yet to be done for Russia to reach the highest level that is required today. This programme’s implementation has been quite effective so far and it has been extended to 2015.
Many athletes and coaches have suggested that we revive a network of sports health clinics in the regions. I used to be monitored and treated at one of such clinics myself. Their services could benefit not only the members of national teams, but also young athletes; most importantly, they used to employ highly qualified experts in the field of sports medicine. I believe these institutions could play a very important role.
I know there has also been a suggestion to establish a national sports medicine centre. This is also a valid proposal and we could discuss and implement it.
It is necessary to analyse the state of affairs in scientific research. Its results are directly related to the improvement of training methods, as well as to the development of sports technology, which is particularly important for the Paralympics. Mr Lukin [Human Rights Ombudsman and President of the Russian Paralympic Committee] and I have already talked about this and he also believes that these are self-evident things. Unfortunately, we are far behind in this area, including due to the lack of funding. But it would be wrong to rely entirely on federal funding; we should use the system of public-private partnerships to support organisations that are engaged in such research often on a voluntary basis, on their own initiative.
”It is normal practice for foreign experts to be invited from abroad; it is used all over the world. In some countries the contracts offered to such invited foreign experts stipulate that the visiting foreign coach will work with local coaches and train them on top of training the athletes. This is a sound, systematic approach and we must introduce it where this practice is not widespread.“
In conclusion, I would like to touch on the issue that we raise at almost every meeting on the development of sport: active promotion of physical fitness and sport, and the role of the media in this important effort. Time passes by but we have not seen any major changes in this area. Experts estimate that more than 80% of all media materials about sports are live reports from competitions. Of course, that is what audiences want to watch. Nevertheless, there are other important themes, such as the development of mass sports, which receive very little coverage, except when we ask for it directly. Sometimes nationwide or regional competitions are organised for the best work of journalism, but an integrated system has not been created yet.
There is clearly a shortage of educational programs and projects on sport. I understand that this initiative requires a lot of work and creativity. Nobody is benefited by boring programmes, neither the audience nor the channels’ ratings. Therefore, the task is to produce interesting, relevant and needed programmes.
Currently the issue of launching a new 24 hours sports channel is being discussed at VGTRK broadcasting company, and there is a possibility that it will be included in the next multiplex. Perhaps Mr Dobrodeyev [CEO of National State Television and Radio Company] here can tell us about it and if not, I will ask him to report to me separately.
In general, promoting sport and an active lifestyle is a priority for this Council. I suggest that we devote one of our meetings to this issue.
I would also like to inform you that starting this year the Council for the Development of Physical Culture and Sport, like other advisory bodies, will work in a new format. In particular, five interagency committees and three working groups covering separate areas will be established as part of the Council. This will allow us to hold in-depth discussions and more effectively resolve issues of concern, with the active involvement of professionals, experts and public associations.
That is all I wanted to say at the start. Thank you for your attention. Let's begin our discussion on the issues on our agenda.