Question: Vladimir Vladimirovich, what are your impressions of the Council meeting [Council for the Development of Physical Culture and Sport, Top-Level Sport, and Organisation and Preparation of the XXII Winter Olympics and the XI Winter Paralympics in Sochi in 2014] and of the way preparations for the Sochi Olympics are going?
Vladimir Putin: I am happy with the way the work is progressing. Many problems still need to be sorted out: making land available, other administrative issues. But as far as the actual construction and the selection of the facilities themselves go, everything is more or less settled now. The specialists once again confirmed today that everything is possible and assured us that all the work would be of a high standard and completed on schedule.
As for the results of today’s meeting, we approved the timing, that is, the step-by-step schedule for work on the sports and infrastructure facilities. It was a useful meeting and I am happy overall.
Question: Vladimir Vladimirovich, it seems to me that it was easier to win the right to hold the Olympics in Sochi than to build everything we need, all the more so within a four-year period.
Vladimir Putin: I don’t know which is easier and which is more difficult, because we have not yet completed the second half of our task. We have completed only the first half – winning the right to hold the Games, and this signals the International Olympic Committee’s confidence in Russia and recognises our country’s possibilities, above all our economic possibilities. This is an unquestionable boost to Russia’s authority, but it is not this that is most important. As I said once again at the Council today, our most important objective is to create the conditions that will allow millions of people throughout our country to practice sports.
This is not just about building sports facilities in Sochi. We also plan to establish nine new federal training centres in different parts of the country – in the east, the north, the south, in the European part of the country and in the Urals. We will set up ten boarding schools with state-of-the-art technology for training the talented children who will become our Olympic athletes in the future.
Furthermore, 30 regions will set up regional training centres. Carrying out all of these plans will give our country a completely new foundation for sports, both at the top-level and for the general public.
If you recall, I said a few years ago that our economic goal was to double the GDP within ten years. There were many sceptics who said this was an impossible goal. There are fewer sceptics today, all the more so as we completed the last year with a good result – GDP growth of 8.1 percent. We have not had such a good result for a long time.
After this goal of doubling the GDP in a decade was set, the federal authorities and the regions set about making it reality. This became a sort of general movement. It was a goal that was formulated correctly. We are seeing the same thing now. We have set the goal of doing a worthy job of holding the Olympic Games, and the infrastructure preparation has been distributed throughout the country. This will give a big boost to creating a truly positive attitude to sports, physical culture and public health.
Question: Vladimir Vladimirovich, yesterday, you visited three of the North Caucasus republics. What is your assessment of the general situation there and the state of affairs regarding protection of our southern borders?
Vladimir Putin: The situation is complex overall. This is especially true of the social and economic situation. These regions all depend on federal subsidies. Unemployment is the biggest problem, but we are seeing changes for the better in the economy, in the social sphere, and as far as security is concerned. There are, however, still many problems to resolve.
When I first visited Botlikh [Dagestan] in 1999, I discussed the situation with the military officials in a tent. Battles were going on in the mountains and we could hear gunfire.
Today, the situation has changed completely. Much has been done to protect our economic interests and national security in this region. We have carried out a huge amount of work: a completely new infrastructure of 119 facilities and 72 new posts has been established on the state border, none of which existed before. These new facilities are all equipped with the latest technology and offer good living standards for the servicemen and their families.
What I was looking at yesterday was the second stage of this work, providing the military cover for the state border. The Interior Ministry’s mountain brigades and specialised units will not just provide the troops to protect the state border but will also actively combat the remnants of the armed groups. In other words, this is also a big step forward for our counter-terrorist work.
Overall, I am happy with the way the military builders have handled their work, despite all the difficulties of construction in mountain areas.
The local people are also benefiting from these projects and I hope very much that this work will provide new economic development opportunities in the areas where this infrastructure is being built.
In the case of Botlikh, for example, the Prime Minister and I discussed today the completion of a road in this district. Completing this road requires the construction of a large tunnel, which is expensive. The money will have to come from the federal budget.
The district is being connected to the gas network. All the settlements in the area will be connected to the gas network. I hope very much that this will help improve the level of security in the areas where our military and border units are stationed.