President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
It is a great privilege for me to welcome to Russia the participants in the International Ice Hockey Federation Semi-Annual Congress.
Russia shares long-standing and close ties with this prominent organisation. Together, we have built a solid track record of successful joint undertakings. We know very well how dedicated the people working in the IIHF Council, commissions and groups are. They are true professionals who devote so much effort to developing hockey all around the world.
In Russia, ice hockey is one of the most popular and beloved sports. This is a vibrant, spectacular, and simply beautiful game, and we have every right to take pride in our glorious traditions and achievements in ice hockey, and in our outstanding athletes. Russians are keeping a close eye on what is happening in the world of hockey, watch hockey games and play hockey themselves.
Last year, more than 620,000 people, and these are just official figures, played hockey in Russia, including 74,000 youngsters, who are learning to play this game in specialised schools and want to dedicate their lives to this sport.
Taking advantage of this opportunity, I would like to thank the International Ice Hockey Federation for its invariably constructive cooperation and trust. Time and again, when choosing host countries for various championships, you chose Russia. I would just like to reiterate that this holds special value and importance in the eyes of Russian society.
We are looking forward to hosting the World Junior Championship, scheduled to take place in late 2022 in Novosibirsk and Omsk, as well as the 2023 IIHF World Championship in St Petersburg.
Let me assure the federation that moving forward, it can count on Russia as a like-minded, reliable partner in its programmes and projects to strengthen hockey around the world and to promote it on a grand scale.
On a separate note, I would like to highlight the work done by IIHF President, Rene Fasel, with whom I had the privilege to meet face-to-face on a number of occasions.
This is a very responsible, knowledgeable, proactive and open person. Not only does he possess exquisite organisational talent and extensive experience, but he is also sincerely dedicated to hockey. While paying tribute to all those who stood at the helm of the IIHF throughout its history, I would like to stress Mr Fasel’s unique contribution to developing and promoting this sport. Never has there been so much interest toward hockey or so much growth.
I know that Rene Fasel is about to complete his term as IIHF President. A new executive team is set to be elected at this semi-annual congress, including a new president. I would like to wish them to build on the accomplishments of their predecessors, and to further enhance the success and glory of world hockey.
I wish the participants in this congress every success and fruitful work. I hope that your visit to the marvellous city of St Petersburg, Russia’s northern capital, will leave you with only the most positive impressions.