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Opening of International Olympic Committee session in Sochi

February 4, 2014, Sochi

Vladimir Putin spoke at the opening of the 126th session of the International Olympic Committee, held in Sochi ahead of the Winter Olympic Games.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, friends, President Bach,

I am truly happy to welcome you to Sochi, which is hosting the XXII Winter Olympic Games.

We are only three days away from the moment when the Olympic flame will light up Fisht Stadium and this grand global athletic celebration will begin.

Russia has been preparing for it with all the responsibility, thoroughness and enormous love for sports, with a lot of excitement and great hope.

We have strong memories of the emotional, uplifting enthusiasm we felt during the 1980 Moscow Olympics and we feel truly joyful and positive because the mighty, inspiring spirit of the Olympic Games is once again returning to our nation.

We are grateful to the International Olympic Committee for the opportunity to host the Winter Olympics. We understand how difficult it was to give Olympic hosting rights to a city that, at the time, had only ten or, at most, fifteen percent of the necessary infrastructure; but everyone believed in our potential and in the Russian character that could meet any challenges.

I should note that such challenges only serve to rally us. And here in Russia, we have a big, multi-ethnic family; it’s hard to even count, but we have over 160 ethnic groups and peoples living in our nation. These challenges give all the Russian people powerful motivation to change the situation for the better, to prove that Russia is capable of overcoming any obstacle and successfully achieving the most ambitious goals, such as building elite sports facilities and all necessary city infrastructure in just five years, when it usually takes decades to complete this type of construction.

Today, each of you can see how the city of Sochi has been transformed over the last several years and ascertain for yourselves that our nation is prepared to make its contribution to the development of global sports. During our preparations for the Games, we gained extensive knowledge, which we are ready to share with all our friends and partners – members of the big Olympic Family, including in the area of education, in promoting the Olympic project itself as well as sports and the values of a healthy lifestyle.

Suffice to mention the largest media promotion programme in the history of preparing and holding the Olympic Games, the enormous number of bright cultural events that have united millions of citizens throughout Russia and, of course, the unique Olympic torch relay, whose duration and diversity reflected all the beauty and uniqueness of Russia, the largest country in the world in terms of territory.

In addition, hosts of future Olympic Games and other major athletic events will be interested in our experience of organising accommodation for Olympic athletes and the general plan we proposed for the Sochi Olympics.

These Olympic Games will also debut new types of sports, including the expanded freestyle skiing and snowboarding programmes, which are particularly popular among young people.

The Paralympic Games will open a little later, but I want to tell you right now that it is just as important for us to hold them at the highest level. I will note that many Russian media have expressed a desire and readiness to provide broad, detailed coverage of the brave Paralympic participants’ athletic competitions. We hope this move will not only increase the Games’ audience but also inspire thousands of young people to engage in sports.

We have strong memories of the emotional, uplifting enthusiasm we felt during the 1980 Moscow Olympics and we feel truly joyful and positive because the mighty, inspiring spirit of the Olympic Games is once again returning to our nation.

Indeed, that is the very objective that many Olympians are pursuing, first and foremost, the legacy they leave behind.

This legacy is not just about inculcating the values of an active lifestyle, mutual respect, equality and fair competition in people’s consciousness; it’s also about more tangible areas. When the Games are over, the Olympic facilities and the infrastructure will serve as the foundation for the first Russian international winter sports centre, where Russia’s national teams will train, where we will be happy to see not only our athletes, but our foreign colleagues and friends as well.

But most importantly, it will serve to train new generations of athletes: a Russian national children’s sports education centre will be created on the basis of the Olympic facilities. So far, the practice of using Olympic facilities for children’s sports has been a fairly uncommon thing around the world. However, it is entirely consistent with the spirit and the very idea of the Olympic and Paralympic legacy, which is essentially aimed toward future generations.

We also have high expectations for the Russian International Olympic University that has opened in Sochi and will train, with the IOC’s support, sports managers from around the world, as well as actively develop the volunteer movement in Russia.

And naturally, the city of Sochi itself deserves special acknowledgement. It is largely thanks to the Olympic project that this gem on Russia’s Black Sea will be able to fully realise its cultural and tourist potential, to attract guests not only with its unique natural environment but by also offering substantial infrastructure and hospitality options, a whole range of active recreation, educational and eco-tourism opportunities.

I want to stress again that in the years of implementing the Olympic project, a great deal of work has been done in all areas. On July 4, 2007, you, the members of the IOC, supported the Olympic dream of tens of millions of Russians; and for us, preparing and holding the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, and doing it well, became a matter of honour.

I am confident that thanks to this extensive creative work – each of us has invested a part of our soul into it – the Games will remain in the memory of all Olympic athletes and guests. We hope that they will get to know better and appreciate the nature of modern Russia, to understand and appreciate our commitment to the Olympic Charter – Move forward and be open to the world – and, of course, our hospitality and kindliness, with which we always meet our good and true friends. I hope that each of you will feel it.

We consider everyone who has provided us full, comprehensive support during preparations for the Games in Sochi to be our friends. I want to thank you, Mr Bach, I want to thank Mr Rogge, Mr Killy, and all IOC members and staff, for your active assistance in implementing our Olympic project, fulfilling Russia’s Olympic dream.

Please allow me to sincerely wish you success in your work.

Friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Please allow me to declare the 126th session of the International Olympic Committee open.

February 4, 2014, Sochi