Speech at National Sports Forum: Russia – Country of Sports 2009-10-23 19:10:00 Kazan President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, friends, I will say a few opening words. Today marks the start of the first National Forum: Russia – Country of Sports. This is the first such forum and I hope it will not be the last, because it is to become a regular annual event. Today we are launching a new sports tradition in Russia. Present here today are representatives of Russia’s regions and international sports organisations, prominent sportspeople and their trainers, heads of public organisations, and Moscow bigwigs (laughter from the audience). I am sure that we are all united by the attention we give to sport and by our awareness that without coordinated work we will not be able to achieve the desired level of sports development in our country, and at stake here are our people’s health and our country’s reputation and prestige. Russia has long been renowned for its sporting achievements. Russia’s wrestlers, figure skaters, gymnasts, and representatives of other sports have won honours at the most prestigious competitions, at European and world championships, and have set hundreds of Olympic records. I do not recall the exact figure, but the president of the IOC gave it to me recently, and I think it was around 1,000. This is certainly reason to feel proud of one’s country. Russia today continues to multiply these achievements. I will not list all of your victories, though it would give me pleasure to do so, but I must note nonetheless that we have regained our champion’s title in ice hockey, have performed well in football of late, and have produced excellent results in the pole-vault, tennis, the walk, and many other sports. This is great to see. What is equally pleasing to see is that sport and physical culture are once again becoming mass activities. Federal programmes and, most importantly, regional programmes have seen active construction of large sports centres and ordinary gyms, swimming pools, skating rinks, stadiums and physical culture and health centres. Good equipment is being installed in these facilities. We realise that there is still much work to do, even though more than 200 new facilities have been built this year alone, and we expect another 170 to be ready for use by the end of the year. But we need to do more. Despite the financial difficulties we face, I think that all regions’ budgets should make funding for physical culture and sport a priority item. (Applause). Thank you for your support. The regions and the business community should play their part in developing sport. We need to get the whole public involved, make a common effort. We can see what happens when there is a real desire to improve the situation with sports. The results are clear and evident for all. Kazan is a good example in this respect. Whether we are talking about big cities with more than 1 million people, small towns, or rural settlements, our common goal is to give everyone, every neighbourhood the chance to play sport. We therefore need to work hard on developing our sports clubs and groups and increase the number of children and adults taking part in them. We have numerous examples of how amateur sports groups have helped develop the talents of our most outstanding sportspeople. Practically all of our sporting legends started off as ordinary children who joined ordinary sports groups, and only then went on to develop their talents the way they did. I am very pleased that this forum is taking place in Kazan, the host city of the 2013 World University Games. Kazan is well known for its sporting traditions. We all saw the city’s sports facilities today and are in one such facility right now. It is a real delight to see how the city landscape is changing. I just visited School No. 177, and if we have such schools throughout the entire country we will indeed become a world leader in sports. What sets this school apart is not just that it is new. There are other new schools, and there are schools that are not so new, but what sets this school apart is that right from the start it has put the emphasis on sports facilities and sports equipment, thus creating a magnet for sports and physical culture activities for the district’s residents. This is the most valuable thing. The local children play sport at the school, and so do their parents. Similar facilities are being built elsewhere around the country too. I am pleased to have seen this particular facility here in Kazan today. Talking of sporting traditions and possibilities, we are all very proud, of course, of the Ak Bars ice hockey club, one of Europe’s best. And we all got a huge shot of positive energy a few days ago after the victory of Kazan’s football team, Rubin. Let’s congratulate our colleagues once again on this achievement. We need to build a system of sports and physical culture in Russia that begins in school, or even better in kindergarten, a system that offers children’s and young people’s sports groups and clubs, and a developed system of university sports. This is why Kazan won the right to host the World University Games in 2013. We need to make our universities places where sports and physical culture are as important a part of the study programme as the academic subjects. Only this way can we develop harmonious individuals and achieve excellence in sports. As you know, our friends abroad have exceptionally well developed systems of university sports. This is our goal too, and so we need to develop our universities. We can do this only if we transform our universities into real centres for producing young professionals. It was with this aim in mind that I recently signed a special order on the federal state universities. I am pleased to announce this news here in Kazan, because Kazan State University is now also on the list of federal universities, and this further raises its already high status. I am sure that this forum (and you already began your work yesterday and will continue tomorrow) will indeed become a good platform for discussing the issues facing sports both internationally and here at home, an opportunity for us to meet to examine the prospects for developing sports and physical culture in Russia, talk about what we still need to do, share our ideas and share our achievements too. This is also important. I congratulate everyone on the forum’s opening and wish you success.