President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good day dear colleagues!
This event has turned out to be very representative. If everyone in this room is involved in sports this would already be good, and if it is part of their professional duties then it is doubly good. Because we are here to discuss measures to promote the development of physical culture and sport in our country. This joint meeting of the Presidium of the State Council of Russia and the Presidential Council for the Development of Physical Culture and Sport has been planned for a long time.
I will not speak in platitudes: of course you all understand the importance of this issue. Therefore without any superfluous words I will get right to the heart of the matter. I will start with a brief analysis of the Russian team performance at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and make a short summary. Even though this has already been done it will be useful to start the discussion this way.
Victory in such competitions is a crucial indicator of the level of sports development in any country and in ours too. Such victories provide a clear picture of the level of development of individual sports.
At the Olympics Russia maintained its leadership position and was ranked third in the medal standings. And in general this is an important and positive result. Our team performed honourably.
Of course not all our predictions came true: we won less medals than in previous games. At the same time, our main rivals — the People's Republic of China and the United States — won more than they did in previous Olympics.
We unfortunately lost some of our achievements in team sports, and in certain ones we performed – as one says – below capacity.
As for our Paralympians, they gave their best performance ever at the Summer Games. One in two Russian athletes was a champion or a medal winner.
There is no doubt that all these results will ultimately fuel our national pride and strengthen the international authority of the Russian Federation. You know how fans share in the results and what they feel when a Russian flag is raised. These are incomparable emotions both for athletes and for millions of Russian fans. But it is clear when we think about the future that we will face very tough competition. We need to prepare very seriously even to maintain the position that we achieved at the Olympics this year.
I think that we need to analyse the pluses and minuses in the preparation of the Olympic team and have a frank conversation about the effectiveness of the entire sports sector.
Today I will touch on the urgent measures that we need to take in the foreseeable future and in the strategic period up to 2020.
I will recall that the State Council addressed the theme of sport already in 2002, when the sports industry was in critical condition. The implementation of the measures discussed by the State Council ultimately resulted in some positive changes in the sports sector and increased respect for sport among society.
A separate document – a federal law on physical culture and sport – and other normative acts were adopted. The federal target programme for 2006–2015 actually earned a total amount of funding of more than 100 billion rubles.
Since 2002 we have built nearly 24,000 sports facilities. Is this a lot or a little? The answer is obvious: it is few. Nevertheless regional programmes have been active and some of them are very good, including with respect to the physical education of children, adolescents and young adults. By the way, a whole range of Russian territories took away a great deal of medals from Beijing.
The corresponding Presidential Council was formed and has convened, a sports channel was established. Our entrepreneurs — and we should thank them for this as well – organised a fund to support Olympians and generally became more involved in the social protection of athletes; they intend to continue to do so in the future. As a result, of course the importance of sport and the opportunities for people to maintain a normal physical condition have increased, but this is still very little.
I cannot fail to mention another encouraging fact. Russia defended its applications to host the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi and the Summer World Student Games in Kazan with honour. Both of these achievements are important results, but we must not stop there.
The figures, which are well known, are as follows: today 15 percent of Russians are regularly involved in physical education and sport, in other words, 85 percent or more than two-thirds do not engage in any physical activity or sports. This is very low, extremely low.
And this figure reflects not so much people's indifference to sport, but also the lack of available opportunities to play sports. We all know the situation. In a given locality, small or large, a new sports centre, a sports establishment appears and life immediately revives: new sections open, parents drive their children, and a new micro-environment is created — the climate becomes more healthy.
The irony is that we have done a great deal to collect the necessary resources to develop sport but they are not used effectively. In general they are mediocre and in a number of places simply bad: the majority of sports schools have a terrible material base. Sports halls are available only in 50 percent of the cases where they should be and swimming pools do not even reach the 6 percent mark. We understand what this means; just compare these figures with the availability of swimming pools in other countries. This is merely an example. Of course the outcome of all this is not high.
In practice we have no system of sports clubs both near places of residence or employment. There are not enough affordable sports halls and open areas. And of course this is not just about fitness clubs — a lot have been organised recently — but also about cheap, full-value sports infrastructure. And this should be dealt with by local authorities in the given city, town or village; this is their direct responsibility. And of course they should do so with the support of the region and the federal centre. There is no fantasy here. In fact I am referring to support for initiatives that were made some time ago.
Today it is absolutely possible to take into account the needs of people of all ages, people with disabilities, disabled people and we must do so without delay.
The system of physical education in educational institutions requires fundamental modernisation. Again statistics show that 80 percent of our students have sedentary ways of life: they either sit in classes or they continue to sit at home in front of their computers. Unfortunately, they do not have all necessary opportunities though few attend sports facilities when they do exist. Often schools — not everywhere of course but some schools — carry out physical education lessons according to a 'tick the box' system so to speak. In other words, not how they should be.
We discussed this issue yesterday when I met with our tennis players, but this can be said about almost any school. Here we have to talk about how to generally organise physical education lessons and perhaps apply certain principles that are applied in other countries.
The cost of this 'inertia' is the deterioration of the health of two thirds of our students and is often accompanied by their physical and moral degradation as well. We are now paying attention to those who will go on to be conscripts but, unfortunately, this is also based on enthusiasm only – there is no system in place.
So far there is nothing outstanding in student sports, even though it certainly has its achievements, the activities of sport clubs are shrinking, while over a half of all universities – and unfortunately in Russia there are very many that compromised on quality – cannot even cope with the demands of academic disciplines for physical education: there simply are no such classes.
To date we are still searching for new ways to organise student sports and new arrangements for its funding. I will not speak in platitudes: you are all well aware that student sports is the basis for high sport achievements throughout the world. With such a development rate, of course we are lagging a great deal behind the demand that exists among our people and this is simply unacceptable.
Obviously we need to make significant adjustments and – as I said just a short time ago – adopt a clear and consistent strategy for the development of physical culture and sport until 2020. Its main goal is to create conditions so that at least half of our citizens and at least 80 percent of Russian children play sports. Work on such a strategy must be open — it is not a departmental, but rather a public document – and representatives of all regions, of sporting communities as well as business communities, in short all those present here, should be involved in the preparation of this document. However, before approving the strategy it is necessary to take a number of operational measures that will have a rapid impact first and foremost on children, adolescents and young people, measures to develop technologies that will make their physical education more attractive and – most importantly – more effective.
One very important issue about which we have spoken repeatedly is new sports teachers. And the most important thing in this respect is a different system of training and material incentives. We must consider this issue and take a very tough approach to the logistical requirements of equipment in physical education classes in schools, because if we do not invest here then nothing will turn out.
I would draw your attention to the creation of school teams in various sports. Just yesterday we talked about this during my meeting with Russian tennis players. I am confident that you can create these teams in other sports and hold national competitions between them. All this should be done very quickly, especially given that in 2013 our country will host the Summer World Student Games.
Dear colleagues, one of our central tasks consists in preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi. You know that we want to build not only an Olympic capital but also one of the best resorts in the world and provide the city's residents and all the citizens of Russia with advanced and convenient infrastructure. In this regard, I have accepted the proposal from the government cabinet about certain changes in its structure and as soon as possible we will introduce a new Deputy Prime Minister who will oversee preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi. I intend to take all necessary decisions in this regard in the near future.
At home we should not just perform in an average way. We must strive to do very well. I will not cite examples from our Chinese friends, but we must strive for similar results.
It is already necessary to review the preparation of sports teams and in doing so to provide incentives for coaches who are willing to prepare their athletes to produce the best results. We worked on this system in the board of trustees of the support fund for Olympic athletes. As chairman of that council I discussed many different programmes, but simply enthusiasm, or money received from business is not enough — this should also be a systematic project.
We must pay particular attention to the management of high-level sports. We must quickly build and reconstruct the training base of national teams, and introduce advanced sporting and medical techniques.
And finally there is one other important task, namely the creation of infrastructure for Paralympic sport. I recently met with our Paralympic team. They are keen to work and you know the efforts they are willing to expend. Therefore our Paralympians should be given more opportunities to be heard at international and Russian national competitions.
The value of sports for any society cannot be overstated, especially for a growing society and a state that is in the process of consolidation. Therefore what we are working on today is, in fact, one of the most important national priorities. Starting from here I propose to organise our discussion.