Opening Remarks at a Meeting with the Members of the Russian Olympic Team 2002-03-05 00:00:00 Novo-Ogaryovo Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. I am glad to welcome you and to congratulate you on the conclusion of the 19th Olympic Games. I am well aware that there has been, both over there and here, a lot of bickering over what was happening at the Games. We were eagerly supporting you. Perhaps we were sometimes unduly emotional, but it just goes to prove how popular sport is in our country and how popular the people are who score outstanding achievements in sports. It is added proof that the overwhelming majority of people in our country see your achievements as their own. That is very important, that speaks volumes. On the whole, in spite of all the emotions, one can say that our team has made a fairly good performance. If the State Council, which met on the eve of the Games, had not set the bar unreasonably high, we might be feeling now that all our expectations have come true. Before the Olympic Games our sports officials told me that we had no particular hopes, but we would certainly win seven or eight medals. We fell only a little short of that target. But most importantly, we have seen talented performances and, still more important, we have seen a great commitment to winning that pushed human potential almost to the limit. Sixteen medals, including six gold medals, is not bad at all. And this in spite of the tough competition and the psychological pressure that we have come across. In spite of this, you have been able to win and confirm that we have good potential and good prospects. We are capable of remaining in the lead in many sports. I would like to thank all the Olympic athletes, those who won the trophies for us and those who have, on this occasion, been down on their luck. We will continue to analyse the results of the last Olympics, the first Olympics in the 21st century, for some time yet. But many conclusions can and must be drawn immediately. The first thing I would like to note is that the Games at Salt Lake City have shown that modern Olympics are not only an international athletic highlight. It involves the interests of business and huge PR resources. The success of athletes at the Olympic Games increasingly depends not only on the athletes themselves or the talent of their coaches. It depends on the competence of the lawyers, psychologists and physicians. So, an important duty of the heads and managers of our team is to provide competent legal, medical and informational support of these competitions. Sport is, by its very nature, all about open, equal and fair competition. Rivals cannot be allowed to win by resorting to unsportsmanlike methods. And we thought that at the last Games that was a somewhat neglected aspect – and we will talk about it later. If we want our athletes to win, we must provide everything that is necessary in advance: organisation, the material grounds and prerequisites. I believe that these issues should be once again thoroughly analysed by our sports establishment, including by the Olympic Committee of Russia, by the Government and other organisations concerned. By the way, these organisations could do with a bit more organisation. I was surprised to hear Leonid [Tyagachov] lament at the last moment that our women skiers were not entered in the competition and also that our organisers and officials were not on the ground: that is, if they had been on the spot perhaps it wouldn’t have happened. And it immediately struck me: and where were you? Why weren’t you there? But that is a separate question. The results of doping tests seriously undermined the morale of our squad and the millions of Russian supporters. We were in on the development of international rules there. And our sporting officials above all ought to be thoroughly conversant with the procedures. And in connection to this, I would like to note that the question is long overdue about whether or not to create a modern anti-doping control in Russia and provide all the necessary equipment and methods for our sports physicians. We have every opportunity to draw on the most advanced domestic and foreign achievements and to enlist the services of top specialists. The prestige of the country and Russian sport is at stake. The third point I would like to draw your attention to is that the Olympics have revealed gaps between the standard of development between different winter sports. A certain lag has appeared in the events in which we have traditionally been strong at. Unfortunately, this is a distinct trend. But in some sports the gap is even more noticeable. We can and must eliminate the imbalance. Above all we should build up the infrastructure, build new ski jumps, skating rinks and freestyle tracks. We should change the attitude to these sports. It is necessary to draw the maximum amount of lessons from the Winter Olympics in order to prepare better for the future. And one of the key areas of our efforts should be to train worthy substitutes as the next generation for our Olympic athletes. And we hope that not only the sports managers and the coaches, but also today’s Olympic athletes will contribute. Because their example can be crucial for many young athletes. One of the issues is the material facilities for the training of Olympic-class athletes. These conditions were laid down at the January session of the State Council of the Russian Federation. And it is the duty of the Government to strictly monitor compliancy with these decisions. I promise that for my part I will keep this issue under review. In conclusion, I would like once again to congratulate you on the end of the 19th Olympic Games. And I offer the warmest thanks to those who rose to the top this time. They are Olga Pyleva, Yulia Chepalova, Yelena Berezhnaya, Anton Sikharulidze and Alexei Yagudin. All those who have won. I would like to stress once again: we are grateful to our Olympic athletes because we have seen what is the most important thing: your dedication, your desire to win, your will and character. Congratulations and thank you.