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Beginning of the Meeting with Champions and Medal-Winners of the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing

August 30, 2008, Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good day dear friends!

I am very pleased to see you and I heartily welcome you back to the Motherland and, of course, I congratulate the team on your exceptional and very honourable performance at the 29th Olympic Games.

You have competed against strong rivals and in conditions that were, frankly, not very easy. Everyone is very well aware of which problems existed. Although, perhaps, every Olympics has its own unique challenges which makes all of them unique events. But the Olympic Games represents the summit in which, of course, only the most outstanding athletes take memorable part. And Russia has just such masters who brought home 72 medals, of which 23 were gold.

The title of Olympic champion is the highest award in sports. And, of course, when starting your event every one of you tried to get the best result, but this is possible only on one obvious condition — when you use all your forces to strive for victory. And I will not hide the fact that we were particularly distressed when one of you was literally a centimetre or fraction of a second away from a sought-after medal, and if our athletes really did breakthrough to the top step then we truly did rejoice. And you saw all this while you were there. We are proud of you, of Russian sports and, of course, proud of our country.

A special word of thanks to those who gave us these Olympic sensations. Our remarkable tennis players Yelena Dementyeva, Vera Zvonaryova and Dinara Safina took the entire podium, leaving not the slightest chance to our opponents. The invincible Yelena Isinbaeva did not only set a new world record, but also gave a very beautiful and entertaining performance. We all remember the indomitable Olympic spirit of Larisa Ilchenko, the impressive finish under torrential rains by Olga Kaniskina, and the new world record of Gulnara Galkina-Samitova in the steeplechase.

Of course, it is our wrestlers who deserve the very kindest words, who won the largest number of top awards. Finally, our magnificent athletes in synchronized swimming and artistic gymnastics gathered up all the gold in their disciplines.

You are the best!

I would also like to give a separate thank you to the team’s coaches, all those who prepared our athletes, who helped them cope with the huge psychological pressures and other problems. They rightfully can share the success of our Olympians. Thank you very much. And of course we are grateful to the Fund for Support of Russian Olympians. It arranged for grants for Olympic preparations to be made to 500 athletes and 680 coaches and experts. Now that the games are over, the payment of the various cash prizes that we all agreed upon will be made. I would like to thank the Fund for the targeted and practical assistance given to athletes and coaches and for its genuinely significant contribution to the development of Russian sport. I hope that this work will continue. Dear friends! Dear Olympians! During these days, millions of people saw your dedication and the limits to which you were prepared to go to defend the sporting honour of our country. Of course the competition in Beijing was not only a difficult test for you but an important learning experience. These games showed that we still have important, untapped reserves. I think you yourselves are well aware of this.

Obviously third place in the medal count is – let's be honest – a very good result, but we are obviously capable of better and we must begin now to prepare for the Games in London. We have to help our new champions develop. In Beijing, Russia had a very young team. Almost two-thirds of its members were making their first appearance at an Olympics, and this represents as they say a real growth area. Of course not all of you won Olympic medals, but you gave notice and attained the most important thing there is, invaluable Olympic experience, the experience of performing at the most important competition on the planet.

In addition, it is particularly gratifying to see that Russia already has, or is starting to revive, strong regional schools, to which we must all pay a great deal of attention. They represent a pool of reserve talent that we can use to put together our next Olympic team. As you know, we are already doing a lot for the development of sport and will build on current efforts and resources for the development of sport in our country. This is obvious because without physical education and sport there can be no intellectual or moral development. Everybody knows this, but that doesn't make it any less urgent.

There should be no doubt that sport is a priority of our public policy. And in the very near future we will discuss these matters again at a meeting of the State Council, which I will be convening to discuss this subject.

There is something else that must be said. Today the Olympics has in fact become one of the most important international events, an important factor in world politics, if you like. This can work for the benefit of everyone but it can also be used differently. There are those who used the start of the Olympics as a cover for their criminal objectives. You know whom I'm talking about. This will always remain on the conscience of those who unleashed their aggression on the day the Olympics began.

Dear friends, the Olympic spirit is proclaimed in the Olympic Charter as a philosophy of life based on the value of setting a good example. And in Beijing you certainly set an enormous number of such examples, examples of perseverance, high spirit and fair play. And I would like to once again sincerely thank you on behalf of all your fans, on behalf of all the people of our country for your victorious achievements and team spirit. And I wish you success in conquering new Olympic heights.

August 30, 2008, Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow