President Vladimir Putin: Dear friends,
It gives me pleasure to welcome you to the Kremlin. I am very happy to see you all here. I wanted to meet with you earlier, but, as they say, better late than never.
These last Olympic Games were the first of this new century, and they showed just how fast the role of sport in the world is growing. They also showed how much attention all countries’ publics and governments give to developing sport. This makes the competition all the more fierce and intense. We all know, you better than I, how closely the country followed events at the Olympics.
We have heard many differing views and opinions on way our athletes performed. Naturally, this included a lot of criticism, but I think we should judge by the results. We know the results – our team won 92 medals, including 27 gold medals. I think we have every reason to say that our athletes achieved success in Athens. And this was a real success, resulting from years of hard work, determination, strength of will, courage and, of course, the talent of our athletes and their trainers.
We were all behind you, giving you our support, sharing the joy of your victories and the disappointment when victory proved out of reach.
The Russian team’s achievements in Athens have now become part of world sporting history. Of course, it is not possible to name everyone here, but I cannot but mention the world record set by Yelena Isimbayeva in the pole vault, Yury Borzakovsky’s strong and spectacular finish in the 800 metres, Denis Nizhegorodov’s achievement in the 50-kilometre walk and the performance of our synchronised swimming team, which once again confirmed Russia’s leadership in this most beautiful discipline.
It is of great importance that the Athens Games revealed new names. Boxer Alexei Tishenko, cyclist Mikhail Ignatyev, wrestler Mavlet Batirov and weightlifter Dmitry Berestov all performed brilliantly in Athens. This shows that Russian sport’s wonderful traditions are alive and continuing to develop, and that we have every cause to hope that we will not only continue to be a great sporting power but will also confirm over and over again this highest level and class.
I would especially like to thank the trainers and everybody who helped prepare our athletes for the games. I want to say to you in particular that your work goes on behind the scenes and people often take notice of it, unfortunately, only when things go wrong. Then we all suddenly remember the trainers and start looking for a scapegoat, someone to take the blame. But when we witness brilliant victories, sadly, the trainers’ work often remains behind the scenes.
In conclusion, I would like to note particularly that sporting success, especially success at the Olympic Games, winning Olympic medals, is of course above all a personal victory for the athlete, but it is also always a national triumph and a great contribution to boosting its authority and importance in the world.
Victories of this kind, of course, also help unite the Russian public and give people confidence in the country’s success and in their own strength and ability.
They also set a good example for young people. We are aware of this and often talk about it, and I am grateful to our leading athletes who never forget the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. We, and I say we in reference to everyone who loves and plays sport, often do not really remember that this sends a great signal of encouragement to millions of people, a signal of encouragement to get involved in sport, think about their health, and thus the health of the nation as a whole. I want to thank you for all of this and to wish you many more successes. Thank you very much and all the best.