President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues.
This is our second meeting this year. In March, we met in Sochi, where we looked into the preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games, as well as the World University Games, which will take place here in Kazan in 2013.
Today, our topics of discussion are no less important – in fact, they may be critically important to the development of our nation. Our goals and topics today are related to developing children’s athletics in our country and preparing reserves of future sports players.
You are aware that creating a system of sports and physical education was an element in our strategy for the development of physical culture and sports through 2020. This strategy was approved this year by the Government. Our next step should be developing a government programme. I would like to hear about the progress being made in drafting this programme, because after all, a strategy is a general document, and what we need is specific figures and indicators of a specific programme.
I must say that the attention given to children’s sports in our nation is growing every year. Today, we looked at the development of children’s sports in Tatarstan (in fact, many of you looked into this issue yesterday, too). This is the result of a great deal of work here in Kazan, in all of Tatarstan, and in other regions of our nation – work that has been ongoing for some time.
We should admit that we did not have sufficient resources in the 1990s, but over the last ten years, we have made some progress. This includes the federal programme, federal funding, federal activities, and regional activities. We are opening new sports clubs – currently we have over six thousand – and we are developing our sports infrastructures. At the moment, over 1.2 million children and teenagers are engaged in organised sports activities. This is a pretty good figure, although there are still many children who are not yet involved. Every year, we hold about 100 national competitions. Every year, about 3.5 million schoolchildren participate in various sports contests.
I want to emphasise again that this is not bad given the situation we were in ten years ago, but it is still entirely insufficient in the modern context. Let me remind you that we have 13.5 children aged five to sixteen in our nation – i.e., school-aged children. Only a fraction of them have full-fledged opportunities to engage in sports.
I must share another, very unpleasant statistic. Of our nation’s 53,000 general education schools, nine thousand do not even have gymnasiums. This is not merely a matter of lacking facilities for particular sports, as compared to our best equipped schools. Indeed, today we saw one very good school – one that can serve as an example; it is a new school, and it was expensive. One out of every five schools is missing a gym, so how can those schools possibly have any athletics classes?
[President of Tatarstan] Mr Shaimiyev likes to bring up the example of a physical education class he saw several years ago, when we were less involved in this aspect: virtual athletics. That is why we need to think about what we can do with such schools. It does not mean that we should close them; however, it is not a normal school if it does not have a gymnasium. In those cases, we need to make a decision. If we maintain a school (which has sufficient pupils and their number can potentially grow), then regional authorities must make respective decision to finance construction of a gymnasium or rebuilding of facilities in the neighbourhood. Otherwise, what kind of school is it?
This absolutely applies to universities as well – it is exactly the same kind of situation. A university that does not have its own facilities for conducting athletics classes is not a real institution of higher education. Unfortunately, we have some institutions like this, especially among the new private higher education institutions that often have nothing but a registered address where diplomas are issued and signed and then mailed out from. These diplomas are not worth the paper they are printed on, not to mention the fact that the years in a university is the very time in life when young people should be actively engaging in athletics and sports.
Today, 80 percent of our schoolchildren do not engage in sufficient amounts of physical activity. This is a very unfortunate statistic. Two thirds of schoolchildren have chronic diseases. According to the data in front of me, only 10 percent of high school graduates can really be considered healthy.
Clearly, the evaluation criteria have evolved somewhat. Twenty years ago, we did not have the same kind of medical equipment, so it’s hard to be certain that we are less healthy today than we were then, but in any event, these figures are quite alarming.
What does all this mean? We must do everything we can to make sports accessible to the overwhelming majority of Russia’s children and teenagers. I want to say this again, here in this room. We are having a difficult year, which was especially hard in the beginning, but nevertheless, we are overcoming our difficulties, and we have opportunities to continue creating sports facilities even during this difficult time – facilities which are imperative for children’s and adolescents’ athletics, and for sports and physical education overall.
When I spoke at the opening of the forum today, I said that every region must have a corresponding section in the budget, which must be regarded as a priority.
The same is true of summer recreation. Currently, our so-called summer recreation is available to only 6 million or about one half of all school children in Russia.
Right now, we are implementing a whole range of major federal programmes, including the federal target programme for developing sports and athletics. This programme spans the 2006–2012 time frame. It involves building a large number of gymnasiums, swimming pools, and stadiums. This year, we built about 200 sports facilities. Another 170 are expected to be opened by the end of this year. We must do everything we can to ensure that this happens.
Next year will be difficult in this regard as well. The programme has been reduced because of budget cuts, but we need to do eour best to strengthen this federal target programme through other opportunities. If we see opportunities at the federal level, we will certainly take advantage of them.
Still, we should try to reinforce this programme in other ways: through extra-budgetary financing and monetary contributions from the regions. I am not going to specifically elaborate on the fact that nearly all of these programmes are being implemented locally, since this is obvious.
Another important matter is the fact that businesses should be helping to create sports infrastructure. There are many good examples of this. In recent years, Russian companies have taken an interest in sports, and private donations are currently funding sports facilities, but this kind of work needs to be further intensified.
The large social programmes are looking very well right now. But it is clear that Gazprom, for example, has better opportunities for them than most other entities. When I was a member of Gazprom’s board of directors, I specifically supervised the Gazprom for Children project. I want to emphasise again that Gazprom is a large company, but even large companies often do nothing. Meanwhile, this programme [Gazprom for Children] allowed over 100 sports facilities to be built in many regions. And this is sure to continue.
Another important matter is the promotion of sports and healthy lifestyles for youth. A lot has been said on this topic, but little has been done. In my view, we must use all of the resources available to us. First and foremost, we must pay attention to the media – and not just the national TV channels, although they, too, are an important resource. All these issues must be promoted on a regional level. We also have radio and the Internet. So far, we have been making very little use of these resources.
Now, another issue: training professional sports players and the development of sports at the highest competitive level. Frankly speaking, we have the same problems in this area; they just exist at a more elevated layer. One problem is training conditions. Another is the salaries paid to coaches and attention given to sports players. Many sports schools for children and adolescents and Olympic reserve schools are currently in very bad shape. They do not have coaches, they lack inventory, and the youth and junior national teams are often funded by the parents of the young athletes.
We also have a problem with our legislative framework regarding the legal status of children’s sports schools. I would like to hear suggestions from you on this topic, as well as suggestions on the arbitrary use of the word “Olympic” in their titles. Let’s discuss how we can resolve this problem, because we currently have 1,200 sports education facilities that use some form of the word “Olympic” in their title. We really need to consider whether we need that many facilities using that term. There are also special rules on this matter established by the International Olympic Committee. We therefore need criteria to determine the right for schools to use this word, and a corresponding definition in the law. What’s most important, of course, is not the definition, but rather, financing corresponding institutions and facilities.
We need to discuss the issue of supporting our best sports players (which is another topic), and members of our national teams, including youth and junior teams. This subject is particularly relevant now, before the first Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, which will take place next year. Winners and runners-up should be awarded.
A great deal also depends on federations, including international ones. Today, we heard speeches from some of the best-known international federation leaders. Also present today are heads of our sports federations, including international ones. All the problems existing in this area are well-known.
I want to draw your attention to the following matter. Some time ago, I gave instructions to the senior officials in the Government, ministries, agencies, and Presidential Executive Office who head these sports federations.
Colleagues, sports federations should be headed by professionals who deal with these specific problems 24 hours per day. As for other distinguished individuals, they can chair supervisory boards, but they should not be chief executives of the federations. Within a month, we need to ensure compliance with the rules. We need to stop this practice of holding executive positions in and making executive trips on behalf of sports organisations. This applies to everyone present here, including sports and other ministers.
Colleagues, let’s start our discussion.
Now I want to talk about the instructions that I think should be prepared following our Council meeting. First of all, we really need proposals for making amendments to the legislation in order to develop our government programme.
Furthermore, we need a proper regulatory framework which applies to the development and improvement of athletics for children and youth, to the legal status of sports schools, to the principles of sports schools functioning, to the respective responsibilities and other specifics. I mentioned earlier the use of the word “Olympic” in titles, etc. — this, too, is an important matter to work on.
Next, we need to talk about the financial aspects. I think that we must take a closer look at our laws. Thus, I will also be signing instructions based on suggestions to create tax incentives for legal entities to make more charitable donations intended to fund professional athletes training and sporting events.
Executive authorities must also be involved in this work and, in transition to the new remuneration system in educational institutions training sportspeople, they must also prepare suggestions regarding a system of financial incentives for coaches and educators, with an eye toward sports achievements and results on the part of their students, as well as the goals of long-term athletic training.
Colleagues, we know that we cannot fundamentally change this situation in just a few years. But at the same time, we must remember that many of our sports facilities and some of the sports achievements we have seen in recent years would have been absolutely impossible seven or ten years ago. We must always compare where we were before to where we stand now.
We often talk about the USSR system for training athletes and physical education system in schools. It had certain advantages, but we understand that it also had enormous drawbacks. As for physical education classes, we certainly do not need to return to those practices, since there was nothing particularly good about them. Everyone sitting here – those who hold medals for winning in sports competitions as well as individuals with more modest achievements, who have simply done a lot of athletics – did not reach their achievements because of the physical education classes, but in spite of them. Thus, we need new, modern athletics classes, such as the ones we saw today in Kazan. They are a great example of what we need. Certainly, we should also have other opportunities – not just compulsory classes, but also electives, Saturday classes, and other sports courses. Those are elements of our legacy that we must maintain.
And one final thought. With the help of my colleagues, I discovered several documents, one of which lists principles of strict discipline as sports commandments for athletes in the People’s Republic of China. I agree with almost all of them. Let me read a few: “Train hard. Play fair. Be neat and punctual. Avoid tobacco and alcohol.” I am a little doubtful about the next ones, but I’ll read them anyway: “Do not fall in love. Do not rush to get married. Work on self-criticism.” And the final one, which is very important: “Fight against anarchy.”
I think that we should end on this positive note. Let’s fight against anarchy. Let there be order.