More than 280 people from over 100 countries are taking part in the forum, including members of the association, the International Olympic Committee, Russian Government officials, the heads of Russia’s Olympic Committee and national sports federations, and Olympic champions.
The World Olympians Association was founded in 1995 and brings together 143 national Olympians associations and more than 100,000 Olympians from around the world.
* * *
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, guests, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Bach, Your Highness Prince of Monaco [Albert II], it gives me great pleasure to welcome everyone to the First World Olympians Forum.
It is symbolic that this event is taking place on the 20th anniversary of the World Olympians Association, which unites 143 national associations and more than 100,000 Olympians from around the world. The association is actively involved in promoting sport and the constructive and positive values that go with it. You do this through your personal examples and the real achievements of outstanding athletes, many of whom dedicate their lives to public, state or political activity and become true ambassadors for peace.
Here in Russia, we have tremendous respect for the role that legendary athletes play in modern society, and we do all we can to support them, including through the charity organisation Russian Olympians Support Fund. Let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who is contributing to this fund’s work in Russia.
Over the last 10 years, this fund has provided more than 9,500 grants to athletes, trainers and specialists on our national teams in 39 Olympic disciplines. Today, around 280 sports veterans, former Olympic champions and medal winners, are receiving grants.
We are proud of the fact that Soviet and Russian sport has given the big international Olympic family so many bright stars. I must mention a few of them now, people such as Olympic champion gymnast Larisa Latynina, who was recognised as one of the 20th century’s greatest athletes, speed skater Lidia Skoblikova and skier Lyubov Yegorova, who have mounted the Olympic pedestal’s summit six times, or skier Larisa Lazutina and Anastasia Davydova, a master of synchronised swimming, each of whom has won five Olympic gold medals. Like many outstanding sportspeople, they are known not only for the records they have set, but also for their active humanitarian and public work, and are an excellent example of responsibility and sense of purpose for young people.
This is especially important today, when sport faces challenges from violence, terrorism and doping, and when the ideals and principles of sport ever more often become hostages to political circumstances. This goes against the very spirit of the Olympic movement, which is built on the principles of respect, justice and openness. I remind you that Pierre de Coubertin, the man who was behind the modern Olympic Games’ revival, said that sport should provide an example of ethical dispute resolution, and the Olympic movement will find support because people have a need for friendship and brotherhood.
It was this approach that made the Olympic movement so welcome and enabled it to develop so widely and bring countries and peoples together, including at celebrations such as the Olympic Games, each of which has made a unique mark on history, uniting and inspiring millions of people all around the world.
The Olympic movement’s ideals – respect for other cultures and working towards harmony and stability in the world – find an echo in Russia’s own traditions and in the priorities and principles that our country defends on the international stage. This movement is fully in keeping with our priorities and principles and we adhere faithfully to the Olympic Charter, which states directly that sportspeople must not be used for political goals. We consistently support the idea that sport is outside politics.
In autumn 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution “Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace.” It includes provisions proposed by our country, aimed at supporting sport’s autonomy. In development of this subject, we think it important to draft and adopt a UN General Assembly resolution that would definitively enshrine in international law the principle of sport’s de-politicisation.
The declaration in support of the Olympic Charter, aimed at promoting Olympic values, could be a big step towards this goal. I know that this document will be signed (or at least is being prepared for signing) following this forum.
Overall, you have many important questions for the international sports movement on your agenda. I hope that you will successfully carry out all of your planned tasks, and that this forum will become a welcome regular event.
Thank you for your attention.