Olympic champions Shcherbakova and Bolshunov did not come to the meeting with Putin
President presented state awards to athletes
Vladimir Putin finally presented state awards to the champions of the Beijing Olympics and congratulated the winners. Among those present in the Kremlin, there were no main stars – figure skater Anna Shcherbakova and skier Alexander Bolshunov. To the rest, the president said that the great traditions of Russian sports would certainly be continued: alternative international competitions in all sports were organized for athletes. Putin harshly criticized the Olympic and Paralympic movement, accusing its curators of dependence on “moneybags” and degradation.
Olympic champions in Beijing – skier Denis Spitsov and figure skaters Kamila Valieva and Anastasia Mishina – clink glasses with the president. Photo: kremlin.ru
The Olympics in China ended 4 days before the start of the special operation in Ukraine – on February 20. Foreign media wrote that Vladimir Putin, at the request of Chinese President Xi Jinping, was specifically waiting for the end of the Games, but Moscow and Beijing did not confirm this information. Be that as it may, the Russian Olympians managed to take part in the competition and win 32 medals, but the Paralympic athletes no longer. For them, the authorities had to organize alternative winter games “We are together” in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug. However, the athletes who came to the meeting with Vladimir Putin represented not only the Olympic and Paralympic teams, but also the entire Russian professional sport, which, with the start of the military special operation in Ukraine, faced the age-old Hamlet question “to be or not to be?”. After all, international competitions are, firstly, earnings, and secondly, a platform for an objective assessment of one's own achievements. Now Russian athletes are deprived of both money and incentives to conquer new heights. And access to the usual inventory, on which the results largely depend, is a big question. Many brands refused to cooperate with the Russians in protest.
On the sidelines, Minister of Sports Oleg Matytsin reacted rather nervously to questions about the prospects for the exodus of Russian champions to foreign jurisdictions and import substitution of the equipment necessary for victories. However, after the government has allowed parallel imports, it can be expected that for the most eminent sets of good skis and poles will somehow be brought. It was planned that Vladimir Putin would personally award all the gold medalists of the Olympics. However, not everyone survived the quarantine: figure skater Anna Shcherbakova preferred an ice show in Nizhny Novgorod to an event in the Kremlin. And Alexander Bolshunov “just fell ill.” However, the president did not spare warm words addressed to those who were absent. Russian single skaters, Putin noted, have no equal in the world. And Bolshunov absolutely deservedly brought the symbolic title of “king of skis” from Beijing. For Kamila Valieva, the reception in the Kremlin coincided with her 16th birthday. The gift was not only a bouquet, but also the Order of Friendship, received for “plasticity, beauty, power and tenderness.” “Such perfection cannot be achieved dishonestly, with the help of some means and manipulations,” VVP reminded of the already forgotten incident with a doping test. Putin wished new victories to all Olympians. “They will definitely be,” he assured.
The conversation about future competitions and victories continued at the meeting, which was joined by “non-quarantined” Olympic medalists, as well as Paralympic athletes. (Earlier, they also received state awards and certificates, but only from the hands of Deputy Prime Minister Chernyshenko.) Vladimir Putin said that the great traditions of Russian sports would be continued. All program plans and plans related to sports are subject to implementation. “We will make every effort to ensure the rights of our athletes, we will hold competitions open to all our friends and true partners, such as the World Olympians Association and the International Military Sports Council,” the president said. He criticized the dependence of the Olympic and Paralympic movement on “bags of money”, emphasizing that this commercialization is a direct path to degradation. As for the removal of Russian athletes from participation in international competitions, according to Putin, this is nothing more than “discrimination for purely political reasons, based on citizenship and nationality.” In his opinion, such sanctions violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. And some decisions – for example, on the swimmer Yevgeny Rylov, who was suspended for attending a concert-rally on March 18 – are simply “absurd”.
It is noteworthy that none of the Olympians present at the meeting publicly expressed concern about the situation in professional sports. According to skier Veronika Stepanova, athletes understand that Russia is becoming “strong, proud and successful again” and “not everyone in the world likes it.” “We will definitely win, as we won at the Olympics,” she said, apparently referring to Ukraine. Paralympic athlete Alexei Bugaev, in turn, asked Vladimir Putin to build a sports infrastructure adapted for people with disabilities, hold more competitions and create conditions for the arrival of foreign athletes. The President promised. And difficulties, according to him, only make everyone stronger.
At a meeting of the Council for the Development of Physical Culture and Sports, which took place after the awards ceremony, Vladimir Putin made it clear that he was not completely satisfied with the results of the Russian Olympians. “The final place is lower than planned in the sports development strategy,” he said. Recall that Russia was in 9th place in the overall standings instead of the fifth promised to the fans. According to the “gold”, two awards were not enough to fulfill the standard of the national team. Minister of Sports Matytsin explained the failures by insufficient centralization of management and training of national teams, the lack of facilities for year-round training in a number of disciplines, as well as the coronavirus, which many promising athletes had been ill on the eve of the competition.
Putin drank champagne with figure skaters: awards Kremlin
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