President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen! Dear friends!
Awarding the Laureus World Sports Awards is a significant, outstanding event in the world of sports. And of course such a prestigious prize represents an important step in recognising the merit of each of its winners..
I am truly pleased, truly happy to welcome internationally reknown athletes here in St Petersburg, here in this room. I think that the choice of a Russian venue, the choice of St Petersburg, for this ceremony was intentional, since St Petersburg is not only one of the famous and beautiful cities in the world, but also a city with a rich sports tradition and schools that have produced champions. There are many famous athletes and coaches known worldwide who are St Petersburg natives born along the Neva River.
There are many such outstanding and talented people in our country. And these days, now that sport in Russia is again on the rise, now that it is becoming a symbol of success , I am sure we will have even more famous athletes and coaches.
In Russia, the popularity of professional and mass sport is growing, especially among young people. And more and more people are choosing healthier lifestyles, seeking to regain harmony between body and spirit. Preserving the health of the nation is for us a question of state importance, our one indisputable priority. It is this policy that was commended by the international sports community and proved in large measure responsible for Sochi's victory in the battle for the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Today I would like to express my special appreciation to the founders of Laureus Awards for their noble undertaking, for supporting the outstanding figures in the world of sport and for promoting the ideas of unity and rapprochement around the values of sport.
For many decades, Russia has accumulated vast experience in the largest and most important international competitions. But we are always open to new ideas, new projects and the closest possible cooperation with international partners. We are also counting on the support of our friends abroad. Especially now, when athletes from all over the world and many sports fans are eagerly anticipating the Olympic Games in Beijing, and here in Russia we have begun preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Ladies and gentlemen! Dear friends! Sport, competition and victory are all linked together in our minds, all of these concepts are related. Success in politics, life, or a profession has always been the product of a number of factors, but there is one thing that I am sure no one would want to dispute, that is beyond doubt: only real heroes, real people, people who are absolutely single-minded, hard-working, but without a doubt talented and bright, people who by their example infect millions around the world with their love of sport – only this sort of people reach the triumphant, radiant heights. It is this type of person who will take their place on this stage today.
I congratulate with all my heart the winners of such a prestigious award and such public recognition. And thank you all for your attention, thank you very much.