President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon dear friends, I am very glad to see you in the Kremlin on this very promising occasion, the presentation of state decorations. I will not talk about the fact that, without any undue exaggeration, the most outstanding representatives of Russian athletics are here today. Indeed, those who raise the banners of our victory are here today. I will only say one thing that I thought about this morning.
I will of course present awards to everyone but in all honesty this should have been done earlier, since already a year has passed after the Olympics. Such decisions should be taken more quickly and I am addressing the heads of the federal sports organisations, primarily the Ministry [of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy], the Olympic Committee and the Presidential Executive Office. On the other hand this is a blessing in disguise, another very good reason to remember what happened a year ago, since some things get lost in our memory. And I hope – or rather am sure – that this is pleasant for all those present today.
Millions of our people have cheered for all who are here today. I understand that everything we will talk about today and all you have done was a product of extraordinary efforts. That is why, on behalf of Russia's millions of fans, I would like to once again offer you my sincere thanks. I will single out a few people not because I think that this is fair, but just to make sure that at least some of those here are mentioned individually. But of course I could say the same thing about our other friends who are sitting here, about those who won a well-deserved fight.
I would like to single out the courage and tenacity of Dmitry Sautin who won medals in all four types of diving events at the Olympics. The persistence and perseverance of Olga Kaniskina who, at the Beijing Olympics and just recently at the World Championships in Athletics, confirmed that our masters of race walking really have no equals. And, of course, the will to win of Yelena Isinbayeva, author of no less than 26 world records. Most recently, at the fifth stage [of the IAAF Golden League 2009 series] in Zurich, Yelena once again surprised rivals, and fans and, I hope, herself as well as she set her 27th world record. Our women, the synchronized swimmers, displayed team spirit and fighting ability in the water in Beijing where they successfully surpassed their opponents and deservedly won gold medals.
I repeat that I could name very many such examples and, as is always the case in sports, all victories are tributary not only to any one athlete, but the results of hard work, emotional support of coaching staff, close friends and relatives, all the people who hoped you would do well, and, probably, luck also plays a role. But, as you know, fortune favours only those who really want to win and who demonstrate the very best qualities.
Your successes have long since become part of our country’s national heritage. That is why we are returning to them now, after a year, even though I hope that after the next Olympics we will meet a little earlier in order to present you your state awards. As President I understand perfectly that no sporting achievement in Russia is possible if the government does not pay careful attention to sport.
Lately we have been trying to do everything possible so that you can develop professionally and train properly. We will try to keep creating normal conditions for training. This is done in some places purely through public funds; in others there is co-financing with private business. In any case, the government must create the initial conditions and a regulatory environment. Only in this case will we be entitled to new victories.
I understand that you all have new sporting challenges ahead of you, new international tournaments and championships. Of course you have preparations for the 2012 Summer Games ahead of you, and we are all hoping for your victory and will experience these Games together with you. And those officials who should make relevant decisions will make them. I can safely tell you this on behalf of all those in our country who are authorised to make decisions affecting sport.
I would once again cordially congratulate you and suggest we start the ceremony for presenting state awards.
I remember when we met at a reception a year ago how happy you were, but I also think you still feel good today. And you have put me in a good mood since this morning. That is very nice.
I remember the events of those time – of course it is sad to do so – but I remember telling some of you that I simply did not watch the first few days of the Olympics, I simply did not see them, for reasons that we all know [August 8, 2008, the beginning of Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia]. And like any person observing a process that is out of his or her control – I understand that my influence on your performance from Moscow is approaching zero – I always think that if I don’t enquire about something, don’t watch, or forget about something, then this would be bad karma.
But for well-known reasons it was not even possible for me to watch TV. And at some point I had the feeling that things would be difficult. But then it turned out that all went well. You know, it was to a certain extent, a small, personal gift for me, because of course I really was worried about how our national team was performing, and the fact that I couldn’t even give you ten minutes of time, because usually when you cheer the result is even better. And when you are excluded from this process you do not always get the results you want, even if you do understand that you cannot influence the situation.
So I am very glad that today we are commemorating the events of a year ago, your brilliant victories. You look terrific. I have the feeling that you just arrived from some resort. But I am sure that in fact you're training and not just relaxing. Without this victory does not occur.
I do not know why it took us so long to prepare the state decorations, as the winners’ list was long known. But in any case since we are meeting now, let me say again that the memory of the Beijing Olympics is, I think, a source of pleasure for a huge number of Russian fans. When they look at your bright, smiling faces and the state awards you received, they will be happy as well.
I congratulate you once again!