Press Conferences

6 august, 2008 12:00

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua and to the Renmin Ribao newspaper

"The exchange of national years is an unprecedented project in the history of relations between Russia and China. It has given us an opportunity to implement many ideas in the development of our interaction in various fields."
Vladimir Putin
Interview to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua and to the Renmin Ribao newspaper

The text of the interview with Vladimir Putin:

Question: Russia is a sporting state with huge potential in many sporting events. What kind of success do you think the Russian athletes will achieve during the Beijing Olympic Games?

Answer: Only a few days remain until the 2008 Beijing Olympics begin. And now, as millions of people across the entire world are excitedly waiting for the opening ceremony and the performances by the best athletes in the world, I would like to wish every success to all the participants.

The efforts of our Chinese friends, the Olympic hosts, deserve special gratitude and high praise. I already know that for several years China has been eagerly anticipating the upcoming Olympics. These Games will break records in every respect. The most modern sporting facilities have been built; the wide net of infrastructure is expanding and the Olympic Steering Committee has demonstrated its readiness and well-coordinated work.

I'm sure that the Russian National Olympic Team will write a brilliant chapter in the history of the Beijing Olympics. Our athletes will give excellent performances, demonstrate high class and skills and will win the highest number of medals.

It is useless, of course, to make sporting predictions, especially concerning such high level competitions. As you know, it is during the Olympic Games that the unexpected and unpredictable happen and new stars appear out of the blue. The sportsmen and women here always fight to the last, to the very limit of their capability, and often exceed their abilities.

I am reluctant to talk about sure achievements before they come true. Laozi once said: "The one who chants praises to himself will never gain the fame." However, experts say we have a good chance in the rhythmic gymnastics, freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, tennis, boxing, track and field, shooting, and synchronized swimming. I also hope that judo fans will be pleased with the athlete's performance.

I would like to remind you that in the last three Olympics from 1996 to 2004 the Russian team has won a total of 243 medals - 85 gold, 76 silver and 82 bronze medals. We are in a strong position among the three leaders in the unofficial overall medal standing together with China and the US. We hope that shortly we will not only repeat, but overtake that success in Beijing.

Question: Everyone knows that you are a judo master and you love sport very much. Not long ago you addressed Russian citizens, especially the youth, trying to attract them to sport. Why are you paying so much attention to the development of sport among the population? Is there any deep meaning to it?

Answer: You have correctly noticed. We have really paid a great deal of attention to sporting developments among the Russian population during the last few years. It is as important for us as the sport of high achievements. The nation's health is becoming one of the key factors in the development of our country, its success and its competitive strength in the modern world.

That is why we think it is of prime importance to get the younger generation interested in sport. And it is most important to encourage this from an early age.

To support physical education and sports in Russia certain measures have been introduced and approved by the Government. A special law has been passed, and a relevant ministry has been established. Since 2006 a special federal targeted program has been implemented - Development of Physical Education and Sports in the Russian Federation. The program will run until 2015. The project budget is more than 100 billion roubles ($4.07 billion). Over 4,000 sporting facilities are to be built. Three quarters of them will be housed in schools and universities. This means children and young people will be the first and most important users of those sporting facilities. Sport is beginning to play an essential part in educational programmes.

Traditional large-scale competitions are being organized, such as The President's Competitions, Universiades, summer and winter Olympics for school pupils and students, for orphans and children at boarding schools. For example, in 2008, 5.5 million people took part in traditional All-Russian Summer Rural Sporting Games, which have been organized on a regular basis.

The Sport national TV channel was established to attract people to sports and training, and in just a few years it has achieved good viewing figures.

Nowadays more than 21 million people in Russia are involved in sports regularly. But this figure is not the limit. We expect that by 2012 this number will increase by a third.

I know that the Chinese people are fond of sports too. In March 2006 I visited the Shaolin Monastery in the province of Henan. On my way there I saw a lot of young Chinese, school children and students, practicing outdoor sports. I was greatly impressed. Such devotion to sports and to a healthy lifestyle is worthy of respect.

Question: Even at first sight you impress people greatly. How do you manage to stay so fit and to keep your brilliant state of mind? How did sport influence your life?

Answer: Exercising has helped me immensely to keep fit and to maintain a calm mind. I think no one will be surprised to hear that physical activity, devotion to a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise are simple and universal formulae for energy, a sense of well-being and for a good mood. I try to stick to these rules. But of course, only as far as my working schedule permits.

Sport has greatly influenced my character. I was a little boy when I started my judo training. And I was attracted to martial arts, their special philosophy, the culture of relations with your rival and the rules of the fight.

Judo is an exercise both for your body and your spirit. It develops strength, reaction, fitness. It teaches you to control your feelings, to feel the height of the moment, to see the rival's strong and weak points, to try to achieve your best results. And the most important is constant improvement and self-cultivation. You will agree that such knowledge, skill and experience are essential for a politician.

Sport also includes downhill skiing for me. I have been skiing for a long time, and I am really fond of it. It is a dynamic and technical type of sport with great possibilities for active recreation, keeping your body in tone and achieving positive energy and good spirits.

I'm convinced that every sport has its own individual peculiarities. And each person can find a sport according to his or her character and liking.

Question: What are you expecting from the Beijing Olympic Games? What do you think about attempts to turn the Olympics into a political issue?

Answer: The Olympic Games are, first of all, a great sporting festival. It is an event, incomparable from the point of view of its importance, its audience appeal and the impact on millions of people. The Olympic movement is based on such values as unity, mutual understanding and collaboration. Distrust and confrontation are unfamiliar to it. As Pierre de Coubertin said, "The Olympics are a competition of athletes, not of countries." So we treat the attempts to turn the Olympics into a political issue as an attack on the Olympic spirit itself.

Russia totally supports the Beijing Olympic Games. Russia was the first to share the triumph of China in the difficult marathon to win the right to host the Olympics.

Your experience in organizing competitions at such a level, as well as providing technical and informational support for the Games, is very important, interesting and useful to us. We always bear this in mind when we prepare for the Universiade in Kazan and for the winter Olympics in Sochi.

And of course, to reiterate, we are waiting for a successful performance by our athletes, we are hoping for exciting competitions and for demonstrations of real skill, and we hope and believe they will win.

I would like once again to thank the Chairman of the People's Republic of China, Hu Jintao, for his invitation to visit the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. I will certainly be in Beijing.

Question: You (and the Government of China) have successfully organized the year of China in Russia and the year of Russia in China. These events contributed considerably to our relations. What do you think of the further expansion of the relations between Russia and China? What aspect should be given special attention in the future?

Answer: The exchange of national years is an unprecedented project in the history of relations between Russia and China. It has given us an opportunity to implement many ideas in the development of our interaction in various fields. More than 600 socio-political, trade and economic, cultural, scientific and technological events have demonstrated the wide spectrum of possibilities for continuing dialogue between the two countries, the strengthening business-related partnership, friendship and confidence between our people.

The most interesting and perspective events will now be held on a regular basis: economic, political, scientific conferences, trade fairs, creative festivals and sport competitions. The next step on the way to strengthening relations in the sphere of culture will be the Year of the Russian Language in China and the Year of the Chinese Language in Russia.

I would like to mention that the [Russian] regions are extremely active in showing a strong mutual interest, and they promote our near-border collaboration considerably.

Most of our events were meant to attract young people and addressed to those who will develop relations between Russia and China in the future.

When China was hit by an awful tragedy, we invited children from the Sichuan province that suffered the most from the earthquake to Russia. This year more than 1,000 children from China will come to Russia for recreation and therapy. We know that China is a powerful state and it can cope with problems without any outside help. However, Russia just wants to extend a helping hand to the fraternal Chinese nation in its moment of grief.

Strengthening cultural and business-related aspects in bilateral relations is a well-established continuation of political dialogue between Russia and China. There is a unique practice between our Chinese partners and Russia - the heads of the governments meet every year. This mechanism helps us coordinate solutions to mutual problems, to find mutually acceptable approaches and to achieve mutually beneficial results.

I have a positive view of relations between Russia and China, and I would like to say that I am sure those relations will continue to develop intensively for the benefit of our states and the people.

I wish good fortune for the Beijing Olympics. And of course, I wish peace and prosperity to the great nation of China.