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Interview by Sergei Ivanov to Vesti v Subbotu TV programme

February 15, 2014

Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Ivanov gave an interview to Sergei Brilev, anchor of TV current affairs programme Vesti v Subbotu. 

Anchor of Tv Programme Vesti v subbotu Sergei Brilev: Good evening, Mr Ivanov.

Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive office Sergei Ivanov: Good evening, Sergei.

Sergei BRILEV: Unfortunately, it is hard to say the word ‘good’ this evening. Mr Ivanov, behind you is the Bolshoy Ice Dome, where the Russia-USA hockey match just ended. Could you believe your own eyes when our goal was disqualified?

Sergei IVANOV: No, at first I couldn’t. I noted too that they didn’t show a replay on the big screen. I can’t really go by my opinion alone because that wouldn’t be objective, but former hockey players were sitting there with me, the president of the International Hockey Federation, and as you can guess, we all jumped up and were absolutely certain that the goal was perfectly fair and in good order. But such is the way things go in sport.

This is not the main thing. What is most important is that our team played really well. This match is not decisive in any way; after all, the new tournament rules mean that even a team that comes last in its group and loses all three matches can still become the Olympic champion.

Sergei BRILEV: Let’s hope for the best. Did you get a chance to see any of the players? Do you know what their mood is now?

Sergei IVANOV: No, I didn’t get the chance. But I think as far as the overall mood goes, today has really been quite good, with much hoped-for gold and silver medals in the short track events. The fourth round in the men’s skeleton event is about to start in a half an hour, with our compatriot Alexander Tretiakov leading by half a second, which in skeleton is a lot. So, I think you’d agree with me, Sergei, that today hasn’t gone too badly.

Sergey Brilev: Yes, it’s not bad. Even in the ski cross country relay, though our girls were in sixth place, I think they showed that they have good hopes for the future. 

Mr Ivanov, I want to ask a political question. Before the Olympics began, some of my colleagues – let’s call them that – played up the boycott issue, but in the end it turned out that more foreign leaders came to the opening ceremony in Sochi than to Vancouver and Turin put together. Maybe that was still not enough for some?

Sergei IVANOV: It’s laughable even to hear this talk about a boycott, because the facts you just gave speak for themselves. More than 60 heads of state and government attended, which is more than in Turin and Vancouver. Of course, there is no question of a boycott here if we are speaking seriously and not citing some of your colleagues’ words. 

But of course some will come and others won’t. There are leaders who like sport and others who are not so enthusiastic or who are simply very busy with domestic political matters. But let me add that those who for whatever reason were unable to come to the Olympics will be unlikely to miss Sochi completely, because the alpine cluster here will be the host venue for the G8 summit in June, which all the leaders will attend. 

Let me make one other point too. It has been said in many quarters that we have spent insane amounts of money on these Olympics, on preparing for the Games. It is true that we have spent a lot of money, above all on building the sports facilities. I was in charge of overseeing the transport sector in the country for many years and can say as a professional that a large part of the money was spent on developing the transport infrastructure, the roads, railway, tunnels and bridges, and all of this will serve Russia’s people for centuries to come. All of this infrastructure will also be useful for holding the G8 summit, because we do not need to do anything now for the summit, everything is already in place. The G8 summit will cost us practically nothing at all. This is also part of the Olympic legacy.

Sergei BRILEV: Since you mention the G8 summit, let me ask you another political question. I’d like to move away a bit from the Russia-USA match. You know that some people voiced the view that Sochi would not be properly prepared for the Olympics. True, these voices fell silent after the magnificent opening ceremony and after everyone saw that everything was indeed ready and working. I have just spent five days in Sochi and am absolutely ready to confirm this. But now they are describing things in term of a ‘feast in the time of plague’ and are looking for any pretext to say something nasty, if I may put it this way. In your view, what can we do about such people?

Sergei IVANOV: To be as brief and as frank as possible, there is nothing you can do about them. We live in a free and democratic country, where you can say and write what you wish, all sorts of nonsense included. I say that quite frankly. No one is banning anyone from speaking their mind. We need to take this with calm because the vast majority of people here at the Olympics, 99 percent of people at least, would say that everything here is wonderful.

I met today with legendary skier Jean-Claude Killy, who, incidentally, is a leopard enthusiast, like me. We discussed the Olympics at length and he also praised the organisation, said that everything is excellent, that it is one of the best winter Olympics, and that we have done everything just fine. He said directly: “Don’t listen to any of these so-called critics.” And so I say, we should just take this in our stride. The main thing is to ensure that everyone carries out their work to the best standards, and then everything will be fine.

Sergei BRILEV: Mr Ivanov, no matter how hard I try to take my thoughts and those of our viewers away from the hockey match, I cannot promise…

Sergei IVANOV: Sergei, I am full of emotions too of course, I watched the match today. My favourite player, Pavel Datsyuk, who played for CSKA before, played an excellent game. You could sense the intellect, the skill of his passes and speed of his thinking, but the Americans also had a player, T. J. Oshie, who played exceptionally well and was very fantastic in the shootout. That’s life.

February 15, 2014