Russia’s national team took fourth place in the medals table with 56 medals in total: 19 gold, 18 silver, and 19 bronze.
Earlier in the day, Presidential Aide Igor Levitin and Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko presented state awards to athletes who won silver and bronze medals at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends.
First, let me congratulate sincerely the Russian national team on its commendable performance at the 2016 Olympic Games. I thank you for coming through some very difficult tests with honour. You have shown the greatest skills and utmost strength of character and determination and reinforced Russia’s solid position in international sport.
I express particular gratitude to the Russian team’s trainers, doctors and specialists, and I also note the great work the Sports Ministry and National Olympic Committee have done.
We know what a difficult time our athletes had in Rio. The team was cut by nearly a third just before competition was about to start and lost the chance to show its ability in the sports in which Russia has traditionally been one of the recognised favourites. But you measured up to all of these challenges, showed great unity and proved that victory can be won not just by numbers, though numbers were important too, but perhaps more importantly, victory is also won through skill. You displayed a true fighting spirit, did not melt down or bend under the pressure, but fought and won.
Let me stress that not only all of Russia was behind you. You had the faith and support of all who share the Olympic movement’s values and see sport not just as a show, but as a symbol of justice, equality, mutual respect and cooperation.
We greatly value those who uphold the Olympic movement’s principles and strive to preserve the unity of the big Olympic family. To our great regret however, we have witnessed how the humanitarian foundations of sport and the Olympic spirit have been insolently trampled underfoot by politics. We have seen how issues are decided based on considerations of the moment, and how selfish interest and perhaps even cowardice have triumphed over the Olympic principles.
The decision to disqualify our Paralympic athletes goes beyond law, morality and humanity. It is quite simply cynical to take out one’s revenge and frustration on people for whom sport has become their life purpose and whose example gives hope and self-confidence to millions of people with disabilities. I even feel pity for those who take decisions of this kind because they do not understand just how degrading this is for them.
I would like to tell our Paralympic athletes that we will support them of course, and we will organise competitions where they can demonstrate their skills, and the rewards for the winners will be the same as what they would have received for their results in the Paralympics.
Yes, of course, we are aware of our own mistakes too. We continue working to improve our country’s anti-doping system and we are doing this in complete transparency and bringing in international specialists. However, there should be no doubt that we cannot and will not accept accusations against our athletes unless they are proven by evidence and facts, and we will see unproven accusations as attempts at manipulation.
When we met before your departure for Rio, I said then and I still think so now, that the international anti-doping organisations also need to improve their work to ensure they are free from political pressure. What are they, after all, a military organisation or something?
They must be completely open and transparent, so that everyone can see who is being tested, where, with what means, what the results were, and what decisions were taken. Only then will the international community have full confidence in this testing system.
I would like to say yet again that not only is the law on the side of Russian athletes, but so are all honest and rational people devoted to sport. Proof of this is the recent election of our champion Yelena Isinbayeva to the International Olympic Committee. Let us wish her success in her new job.
Of course, another conclusive and convincing argument in our favour was the outstanding performance by our athletes in Rio, whose ‘cleanness’ was proven and raised no doubts.
As I said, I believe that not only Russian supporters but also sports fans around the world were thrilled by the victories of our women’s handball team, our synchronised swimmers, wrestlers, fencers, tennis players, pentathletes, boxers, and our artistic and rhythmic gymnasts.
I would like to add that Rio also brought some welcome surprises and we showed serious progress in sports in which we had not had success for a long time — sailing, archery, and a number of other disciplines.
We will have a thorough consideration of the results at Rio de Janeiro and our further plans at the next Sports Council meeting, but I can already tell you now that we will definitely help our athletes to create the necessary conditions for your successful training and further successful performances.
We have the Olympic Athletes’ Support Fund to help with this. It has long served as reliable support for developing top-level sport. I would like to add that this year the Fund will provide special encouragement to our best track and field athletes, who were deprived of the chance to compete in the Olympics.
Friends, we are certainly proud of you. Your victories are this country’s treasure and an example for millions of people who will take up sport, choose health and an active lifestyle and learn from you a sense of purpose, belief in oneself and in the team. Of course, Russia will continue to fight for clean sport.
Friends, let me congratulate you once again on your latest successes. I congratulate you on the state awards you have received.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Friends,
Just as the majority of sports fans in Russia, I was probably not able to watch all of the competitions and I mainly got to see a bit here there. Some were perhaps luckier and saw nearly everything or the whole thing. I am sure that people mostly watch the events they prefer, or watch when they have time, if they are working. However, what I did see was impressive, and I am certain that millions of Russian sports fans would agree with me. It was impressive and we were thrilled by the victories, but we were even more thrilled by your passion, willpower, desire to win and sincere aspiration to show you are the top no matter what. You achieved this and did it with brilliance.
Those who watch sport from the sidelines do not know how much effort goes into winning not only a gold or silver medal, but even a bronze one. In some sports, even making it to the top ten is a real achievement in itself. It is an amazing feat to come top in the world, all the more so when competition in the sports world is so fierce today.
We saw what the women’s team achieved in handball. The victory came down to just one or two points, and it was the same with all their rivals. This shows that different teams all were on a similar level and that they all had a chance of winning. Or take artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and synchronised swimming.
We are all used to victories and we want to see only victories, but the competition is tremendous and to clinch victory requires character, effort and talent. You have all of this.
I congratulate you and wish you new achievements. Thank you very much.