Vladimir Putin: Dear Mr President of the European Judo Union, dear colleagues, dear friends!
I am sincerely glad to welcome the board of directors of the European Judo Union and various judo associations from Africa and Asia here to Sochi.
The International Judo Federation has the second largest number of members in the world and the European Judo Union is the Federation’s most representative member.
And I would like to first and foremost thank all of the representatives of the European Judo Union for the big contribution they have made to this excellent sport.
In many respects it is thanks to your work that new schools and sections are being opened. You are engaged in honourable work with young people and children. And I know how valuable this is (as you remember, I have a great many friends involved in this sport and for that reason the sport is a special one for me). This amounts to a large amount of constructive work that sometimes requires a full commitment. But this work is done not only with young people or with children, it is also done with sports veterans and with sportsmen with limited possibilities.
I must point out that, as a whole, interest in sports and in judo in particular is growing throughout the world. You have an exceptionally busy schedule with regards to sporting events and competitions on all levels. And it is not by accident that in the 2005 World Championships European judo players won almost two thirds of all medals and as a result took the first place in competitions between continents.
Today it is important to actively expand this sport’s geography and to ensure that new young fighters start playing judo. Judo strengthens character, spirit, teaches fairness and a respectful attitude toward one’s partners.
I know that today you must adopt the conceptual programme for judo’s development between 2007 and 2012. I am confident that this document will act as a good basis for the sport’s development. The document has an extremely important social dimension. It must ensure that more children and adolescents play judo, a sport which will instill in them valuable moral qualities. The help provided by respected sportsmen represents a significant initiative towards helping consolidate public harmony. As a whole, implementing this conceptual document will be able to play an important role in the development of mutual understanding between nations.
Once again I thank you for your role in popularizing judo in Europe and in the world. I am confident that the European Judo Union will continue to actively participate in organising similar meetings and seminars, and help exchange experiences and ideas. And the most important thing is to always remain a union of friends and like-minded people, people working in the interests of and towards the development of their favourite kind of sport and sports in general.
I am very pleased that you chose to meet in Russia, in the south of our country, in Sochi. You heard how Russia has presented Sochi as a candidate to hold the Olympic games in 2012, albeit not the summer but the winter games. I think that you have a great deal of ties and opportunities within the Olympic Committee and with our colleagues involved in other kinds of sports, including winter sports, and that once you are acquainted with Sochi you can contribute to making a positive decision and helping Sochi become Olympic capital in 2014.