Tuesday Talk - Russian Olympic Committee Chief on ANOC Assembly, Sochi, Putin
Russia NOC president and deputy prime minister Alexander Zhukov at the Durban IOC Session. (ATR)
(ATR) Alexander Zhukov tells Around the Rings
the hosting of major events, the promotion of Olympic ideals and values as well as the development of both elite and mass sport will top the Russian Olympic Committee’s agenda through at least 2020.
Zhukov, also a deputy prime minister, cut his teeth on the Olympics as the lead minister for Sochi's successful 2014 bid. In the wake of a disastrous performance by Russia at the Vancouver Games, he was then handed the presidency of the NOC, charged with making sure the home team is ready for Russia's first Winter Olympics on home soil.
He also has London 2012 to worry about in the meantime – not to mention the ANOC General Assembly kicking off Tuesday in Moscow.
Zhukov takes time out of his busy schedule to discuss some of the issues now facing the ROC in this expansive interview with ATR
Editor Ed Hula.
Around the Rings:
You have been ROC president for two years. What are the highlights of what has been accomplished so far?
First of all, the strategy of development of the ROC for the period until 2020 has been worked out and approved, aimed at providing the best conditions for successful training and performance of Russian athletes at the Olympic Games.
With the view to promoting Olympic values and ideas, the ROC has also developed and now promotes a program of Olympic education. Olympic lessons are successfully held by leading Russian athletes and Olympic champions all over the country.
Around the Rings was on the scene in Moscow for November's centenary celebrations of the ROC. (ATR)
The ROC celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011. We used this opportunity for the wide promotion of Olympic ideas and support of mass sports. For example, Olympic Day celebrations were organized on June 23 in the context of celebrating the ROC Centennial. This sports occasion gathered more than 5,000 people in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium and many hundred thousand Russians all over the country.
The ROC actively participates in bringing large sports events to the country. Last year, Russia hosted the ISU World Figure Skating Championships. We look forward to hosting the IAAF World Athletics Championships, FINA World Aquatics Championships and, of course, the FIFA World Cup. In addition, next year the Universiade will take place in Kazan. We believe that hosting such large events will increase the interest of our citizens in sport, enhance the number of people, especially children, taking part in sports and raise the international prestige of Russia. And for our athletes, it will definitely be a great experience to participate in major events held in their home country.
Last year, Russia also hosted the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committees in Sochi. The delegates received reports on the preparations for the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games and visited The Olympic Gala in Moscow, dedicated to the ROC Centennial. And now we host the ANOC General Assembly in Moscow.
The ROC has also developed marketing programs aimed to attract funds from sponsors to help with the financing of our sports development programs.
Russia has stepped in to host sports events such as the figure skating world champs and the ANOC Assembly. What enables Russia to offer this help on short notice?
Moscow stepped in for Tokyo to host last May’s figure skating world championships following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. (Getty Images)
Availability of necessary infrastructure, large organizational experience and great will to host major international competitions. Such high-scale events always attract the attention of people and encourage them to participate in sports. Now we are ready to host events of any level in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and from next year in Kazan. Test events are successfully going at the new sports venues in Sochi right now as well.
What kind of work has been involved with the ROC to prepare for the ANOC Assembly?
It is a great honor for us to host the largest Olympic forum. The organizing committee was founded by the Russian government, and the ROC is able to offer participants world class conditions for the working sessions and an attractive cultural program. We hope that the ANOC Assembly will be a truly memorable event and will enhance the international profile of Russia.
How are preparations for the Russian team to London?
Preparation of our athletes is based on the individual programs developed by the sport federations. The Russian government and the ROC are doing their best to create the most effective conditions for the training of our team. Within the last two years, we have fully restored all the sport venues for Olympians training in the Moscow region, Sochi, Saint Petersburg and other cities of Russia.
What does the coming of the Sochi Olympics mean to the future of the ROC?
The Olympic Games of 2014 in Sochi is a very important project for all of Russia.
Sochi’s future Olympic Village as seen during February’s first World Cup alpine test events. (ATR)
These Games give us the opportunity to modernize Sochi as an alpine resort and to create the new sports infrastructure for the region. And of course, for every National Olympic Committee hosting the Olympic Games in its country is an event of the very highest importance. We are fully confident that the Olympiad will provide new opportunities for implementation of the main ROC goals – promotion of Olympic ideals and values, development of elite sport and mass sport in our country. And the sport legacy of the Games in Sochi – alpine skiing tracks, bobsleigh tracks, etc. – is very important for the training of our athletes for future competitions.
What about a bid for the Youth Olympic Games?
Dagestan was interested in hosting the YOG in 2018, but finally the decision was taken not to bid at this time due to the fact that in 2018 the FIFA World Cup will be hosted in Russia. It may be better for fans and organizers if these two major events were hosted in Russia in different periods of time.
How important is the involvement of President Putin for Russian sport and the Sochi Olympics?
Vladimir Putin at November's centenary gala. (ATR)
Support of country leaders is very important for the development of sports in every country. Vladimir Putin strongly affects the development of sports by his active participation in a number of sports and promoting the healthy lifestyle. It was Vladimir Putin who led the bid for the Olympic Games in Sochi from the very first steps and supported the ideas of hosting major sports events in Russia.
You started out as the deputy prime minister overseeing the Moscow bid for the 2012 Olympics. I remember the interview we had in 2005 at the White House in Moscow. Since then, you have become even more involved in Russian sport. Is this the direction you expected your career to take? Is this a rewarding experience? What would you like to accomplish?
I love sport both as an athlete and as a fan. During the last eight years, I was in charge of sports development as Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.
The work with the ROC is very important for me and gives me the opportunity to directly participate in achievement of such goals as development of mass sport, support of national elite sport and promotion of the Olympic Movement in Russia. It is also a great honor for me to be involved in the activities undertaken by the IOC.
I would like to increase the effectiveness of the ROC’s work, which should help to achieve its mission according to the Olympic Charter. The ROC brings together all members of the Olympic Movement in Russia to create the stable and comfortable environment that is essential for the development of our athletes. Another goal is to increase our role within international sport organizations, and by making a positive contribution we will strengthen the position of Russia in the Olympic Movement.
Interview conducted by Ed Hula.
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