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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Zhukov, we have already discussed many different matters. I want to talk with you today as President of the National Olympic Committee about the preparations for the test competitions at facilities in Sochi and about several other matters too, in particular, promoting the Olympic movement and sports in general. I know that the Russian Olympic Committee does a lot of work in this area, including with the help of our Olympic athletes. Please, go ahead.
President of The Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov: Mr President, last year, we launched a big programme – Olympic Classes in Schools. You even took part in one class. We have held more than 1,000 such classes so far this year, conducted by outstanding sportspeople and Olympic athletes. They come to the schools and tell the children about the Olympic movement and about their own sporting life and achievements.
I have taken part in many of these classes. The children’s eyes light up when they see a real Olympic champion before them. We held a class just recently with Alexander Mikhailin [silver medallist in judo at the 2012 Olympics]. I am sure that these classes get many children interested and make them want to start playing sports themselves. I see this as a very important programme and we have had an excellent response from our Olympic athletes.
We have published a textbook for schools on the Olympic movement’s history. I believe the Olympic ideals are in themselves very important and think that children should know this history, and so we will continue this programme.
We are starting another programme now, one aimed at the sports-loving public in general. The idea here is to create fan zones in various cities during big competitions. This idea was first tried out at the London Olympics and it worked very well. People get together at stadiums, watch competition broadcasts on big screens together and support the players and athletes. I think this would also do a lot to help promote sports.
This year, we have many test competitions scheduled to go ahead at the Olympic facilities in Sochi, including top level events. We will be holding the figure skating Grand Prix final, for example, this December.
We have many talented young sportspeople today. We hope that this season will be a major stage in getting ready for the events in Sochi. We will be hosting world cup competitions in alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, and the youth ice hockey world championship. In short, almost all of the Olympic facilities will get tested in top-level competitions.
It is also extremely important of course that our athletes have the chance to start training right now for the Olympics at the Olympic facilities themselves. Training at the bobsled track began recently (this is one of the most important facilities). As you know, the alpine skiing trails were completed and opened for use last year, and we will be making full use of the ski trails and the biathlon stadium in this year’s programme of events. These facilities use the medium peaks around Sochi, and this is an area that plays an important part in preparing for the Olympics. Our teams and athletes are training now according to the individual plans and timetables, and we see these test competitions as one of the big stages in getting ready for the Olympics.
Vladimir Putin: Do you think that all of the facilities will be ready on time?
Alexander Zhukov: We are certain they will be. We hope to have them ready as soon as possible so as to give our athletes maximum time to train there. We are already working together with [State Corporation] Olimpstroy on all of the facilities. The main thing is to ensure that they are as best suited as possible for our teams’ training needs. We have put together what I would call several experimental teams that are at work at the moment, studying the facilities’ particularities and the athletes’ training needs.
Vladimir Putin: What about the infrastructure facilities?
Alexander Zhukov: The infrastructure facilities are nearly all ready now. The railway — one of the most important facilities — will be in operation very soon, as will the roads. They are probably the most important things.
Vladimir Putin: We will go and visit. I haven’t been there for a long time. We will go and take a look.
Alexander Zhukov: Mr President, we invite you to come to the test competitions. I think they will be very interesting. They start in December. There will also be many events in January and February. The whole season will be full of top-level competitions. You can come and take a look and support our athletes too.
Vladimir Putin: Good.