Vladimir Putin sets some Olympic tasks before the country.

Vladimir Putin sets some Olympic tasks before the country.

During his speech at the 18th Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly, Putin made several important announcements.

The ANOC General Assembly is currently under way in Moscow, hosting over 1000 leaders of the olympic movement from 205 countries. In a certain sense, the meeting has been a presention of Russia - the country soon to host the winter Olympic Games for the first time in its history.

Putin began his speech by congratulating His Highness Sheikh Al-Sabah on his election as president of the ANOC General Assembly.

"Mr Al-Sabah is a well-known and respected man, who is fond of sports and who has done a lot for its development," said Putin. "I do not doubt that his many years of experience not only in sport but also in state administration, diplomacy, his extensive personal contacts with leading international and regional organisations will help our esteemed colleague to effectively address the tasks he faces"

The prime minister added, that "the current stage in the development of civilisation is far from stable. Regional conflicts, social, ethnic and religious intolerance – all these phenomena pose global risks."

"The global financial markets are unstable. The difficult economic situation in many countries directly affects sport," said Putin. "But all these obstacles will be overcome, given prudent and wise approach. Spheres such as sport and culture can, must and will become catalysts of economic growth and development. In this era of change, it is especially important to find adequate responses."

Prime minister appealed to the audience "to work together to counteract such negative phenomena as doping and the distribution of banned drugs, match fixing and illegal betting operations," as well as "to fight the aggressive behaviour of those who pretend to be fond of sports."

Vladimir Putin stressed, that the level of people’s involvement in sports reflects the quality of the state’s social policy and shows the level of responsibility towards the fate of future generations.

"Mass sport and raising the role of physical fitness in education are priorities for many nations, including Russia," Putin assured the assembly. "Our goal is to involve no less than 40% of our citizens in regular sport and healthy lifestyles by the year 2020. I am sure we will achieve it."   

This goal is part of the special federal programme on the development of sport in the Russian Federation until 2015. By this time the percentage of people involved in regular sport will reach 30%. It is easy to see the scale of the project if we remember that Valery Fedorov, head of VTsIOM, said that only 5% of Russian citizens regularly engage in sport. The percentages quoted by other analysts is even smaller — 1-2%. This projected percentage set by the prime minister corresponds to statistics in the United States, though is quite far behind German figures, where circa 60% of the population is involved in mass sport.

Putin also emphasised the role of the Olympic Games in the development of the regions.

"We make full use of the preparations for such major competitions as the Student Games or Winter Olympic Games in Sochi  to give a boost to the development of the regions of the Russian Federation where they will be held," said Putin. "For example, preparations for the Student Games in Kazan, in my view, have transformed the look of this ancient town. Dozens of absolutely modern, new facilities have been built: roads, infrastructure facilities, stadiums that many of our citizens had only seen in movies or in photos. Today they are making good use of it all. As for Sochi, we will invest heavily there, but more than 80% of the funds will be spent exclusively for the development of this region, primarily for infrastructure development. A bypass road around Sochi, construction of sewage, water and power supply facilities. We are building two gas pipelines reaching Sochi, we have built a new power station, are building eight electric power substations, some twenty bridges and about ten tunnels. All these facilities taken together will serve Russian citizens from all regions for decades to come. It will serve not only the citizens of the Russian Federation, as Sochi is a major and favourable resort for Russians, but also foreign tourists."

The prime minister expressed hope that such events would be held in Russia more often and possibly even on a regular basis.

"I have noted what was said today about the election of leaders of the international sport movement in Moscow," said Putin. "Mr Rogge was elected in Moscow. Today Mr Al-Sabah was elected in Moscow. Come to see us more often. Moscow brings luck."

Konstantin Novikov