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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, colleagues,
I want to present the President of the International Olympic Committee. You already know him well. Allow me on your behalf to wish the International Olympic Committee’s newly elected president success, and to express hope that the IOC will continue to support Russia in preparing for the Olympic Games.
President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach (translated from Russian): Thank you very much, Mr President.
Thank you for your hospitality and for this opportunity to meet here with the most important people in Russian sport, especially in winter sports. It is nice to see many familiar faces here and many famous sportspeople, past and present. It shows that Russian sport is flourishing.
The International Olympic Committee is very happy with the preparations for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, and I am sure that this will be a very interesting and excellent 2014 Winter Olympics. Of course, much of this confidence comes from the personal contribution your president is making to getting ready for the Sochi Olympics, and to the personal attention he has given this project throughout these 7 years. You can be proud of the way your head of state has got involved in preparing for a successful Winter Olympics.
I am very pleased to see many of my Russian friends here and am happy to be able to work together with you. I see many friends here at this table. We expect to be working even more closely together over the 102 days remaining until the start of the Olympics, because practice shows that the final days before the Games are always the busiest.
Once the Olympic flame is alight in the Olympic stadium, everything will depend on you, because the Olympics’ success depends a lot on the success of the host country’s team.
You are very lucky that your president is here now, because you can use this chance and honour to ask him many questions and ask for help and support so that your sportspeople will be 100 percent ready. I wish your athletes and teams good luck and success.
Once again, thank you very much, Mr President. I hope to see you again in Sochi soon and have the chance to personally present gold medals to your athletes. Good luck to you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. On my own behalf, and on your behalf, I assured Mr Bach that our sportspeople and fans will do everything possible to ensure that the participants and guests feel at home at the Olympics in Sochi no matter what country they are from and no matter what their ethnic background or sexual orientation. I want to stress this point.
Thomas Bach: Once more, we want to thank you for your hospitality. We are sure that everyone taking part in the Games will enjoy this same hospitality and your country’s sporting spirit. We have witnessed this over many years now, and I am sure that the Games will be of the highest level.
Thank you for your efforts in organising them.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Colleagues,
There is little time left before the start of the Winter Games in Sochi – just over three months. To be more specific, tomorrow will mark the start of the 100-day countdown.
We can basically consider the challenges of constructing the Olympic facilities to be resolved. Of course, certain problems still remain, areas that require more work. We need to finish a few things, but we can be confident that everything will be completed well, and on time.
And now, of course, it is the sports themselves and our national team’s readiness for the Olympics that are in the spotlight. That is the topic I suggest we discuss today in more detail.
Clearly, our athletes’ commendable, successful performance is no less important than flawlessly hosting the Games and preparing for them. Our nation was a leader in various types of winter sports for many years, setting the bar for world records. I must admit we have lost ground in some areas, and there are a number of athletic fields where we have descended several rungs from our former positions of leadership, which is unfortunate. But overall, I feel this can be remedied.
Together with you, the government has made some serious strides to change this situation for the better. Thus, we have significantly modernised the physical infrastructure for winter sports. Our athletes have worked with the best Russian and foreign coaches, including those who have returned to their fatherland, Russia, from abroad, and are continuing to work here. A great deal of work is also being done to provide athletes with biomedical support.
Still, I must stress that major athletic victories are not a question of prestige or ambition for us. The connection between athletic success at the highest level and developing popular sports is obvious. And naturally, we are all well aware of this.
Examples of outstanding athletes have always served as an impetus for people to get involved in sports, to adopt a healthy lifestyle. And it’s not just a question of prestige, but rather, the health and future of our nation. And naturally, when our athletes achieve outstanding results, this is often a source of particular pride and prestige for the entire nation. This, too, should not be forgotten.
Our fans and sports enthusiasts await victories – and they await them with no less impatience than the Olympic celebration itself.
As you recall, our athletes won only 13 medals during the pre-Olympic period of 2008–2009 at the winter sports world championships, and the Russian national team only made 11th place at the subsequent Games in Vancouver. Now, following the 2012–2013 season championships, we have 23 medals and we are in 5th place according to the unofficial team score. Overall, this is a good position to start from.
We already have 215 Russian athletes who have passed the international qualifications to participate in the Olympic Games in Sochi. They will be competing for 86 of the 98 sets of medals. Moreover, we have the maximum participation quota in five out of fifteen types of sport. In other types of sport, we are a bit below the quota, but the qualifying competitions are not yet complete and we may still add more athletes to the roster.
We justifiably expect that we will be highly competitive in athletic events where we have traditionally been successful, such as hockey, cross-country skiing, biathlon, luge, speed skating and figure skating, as well as areas where Russian athletes are just beginning to make themselves known: freestyle, snowboarding and curling. We have good potential in all the events our athletes are participating in, and that potential must be realised as much as possible.
And naturally, we have every reason to believe that our Paralympic team will be victorious. Last season, we were in first place according to the unofficial team tally, well ahead of our closest competitors.
Incidentally, our Paralympic athletes have also improved their results. In Vancouver, they were in second place, with 31 athletes participating in just three out of five sports. The Sochi Paralympic team now consists of 64 members and will be competing in six types of sport for 72 sets of medals.
You are well aware, friends, of the high level of competition in modern sports, and in order to do well, we must adopt cutting-edge technologies, continuously and dynamically progressing in all types of sports, including the ones included in the Olympic programme.
Of course, we can laugh as much as we want at some of the exotic sports appearing in the programme, but they are now Olympic events. We must participate in them and win them.
In order to reach this objective, it is extremely important to support young athletes, to look for new, gifted youngsters. In a nation as large as Russia, there are many talented, promising children. We shouldn’t sit around and wait for someone to take them by the hand and bring them over; we should take initiative, working to make all types of sports more popular with the help of the media, at educational institutions, through organisations that are truly involved in sports, or ones that can be involved in sports, and through popular competitions.
I am asking the Sports Ministry to work with the sports federations to develop these issues and present specific suggestions.