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Meeting with participants of the Universiade in Kazan

July 19, 2013, Novogorsk training centre, Moscow Region

Vladimir Putin met with Russian athletes who won prizes in the 27th World Summer Universiade. The meeting took place at the Novogorsk training centre.

The Russian national team, consisting of 663 athletes, came first in national team rankings and achieved the best results in the entire history of the Universiade: Russian athletes won 292 medals, including 155 gold, 75 silver and 62 bronze medals.

The 27th World Summer Universiade was held in Kazan from July 6 to 17, with 7,966 participating athletes from 160 nations. The Universiade’s athletic programme included 27 types of sports. 351 sets of medals were awarded.

* * *

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,

I want to sincerely congratulate all the winners and medallists of the 27th World Universiade in Kazan. I congratulate you on your outstanding victory. I would like to particularly express my gratitude to the coaches, specialists and doctors who provided athletes with medical support.

The Russian team’s achievements are the result of strenuous joint efforts. The athletes, their mentors and medical professionals – all of you have demonstrated the highest level of determination, mastery and perseverance, as well as giving sports fans the unforgettable, exciting days of the Universiade.

I will note that for the first time in the Universiade’s history, fans were riveted not only in our nation, but also around the world: as you know, over 100 nations broadcast the games and the stadium tribunes were full.

Thus, I want to direct my special thanks to our sports fans, who were at the edge of their seats as they supported you. I hope that they, too, played an important role in your overall success.

This Universiade had the greatest number of participants in the history of such events: 11,760 athletes, over a thousand more than there were in 2011 in Shenzhen, China. Clearly, student sports are gaining popularity and I am confident that it will continue to grow.

In addition, this is the first time that so many sets of medals were awarded, and it is important that Russia showed good, or even outstanding, results in nearly every category of sports. Our athletes were able to beat the record for the 2011 Universaide in China, where the hosts also achieved a dazzling victory, winning many medals. They won a total of 145 medals, including 75 gold. But this year, we earned 155 gold medals and 292 medals overall. This is certainly a marvellous, simply amazing result. I congratulate you on it once again.

You did brilliantly – it would be impossible to name everyone but the swimmers, including synchronised swimmers, wrestlers, rowers, rifle shooters, gymnasts – both men and women, both rhythmic and artistic – were all fantastic. I’m pleased that the leading Russian athletes who are currently studying at our nation’s universities participated in the competitions in Kazan.

We are sure that Kazan will become a starting point for your brilliant future victories and successes, especially since many of you will soon participate in the IAAF World Championships in Moscow and, of course, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where I hope you will achieve the highest results with as much success and tenacity as you did here.

The city of Kazan is also looking forward to an exciting athletic future. Soon, the arenas where you performed will hold some major international kick-offs. First, the Aquatics Palace and the Kazan Arena stadium will host the World Aquatics Championships in 2015. In addition, the Kazan Arena will host the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017 and the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

”The Russian team’s achievements are the result of strenuous joint efforts. The athletes, their mentors and medical professionals – all of you have demonstrated the highest level of determination, mastery and perseverance.“

Let me stress that this was exactly our plan when we bid for the right to host the Universiade in Kazan. In five years of preparations, the Universiade has become a nationwide project, whose implementation involved the federal authorities and the regional agencies of the Republic of Tatarstan.

We wanted to organise the best student athletic celebration in the world, and we did this, first and foremost, thanks to your efforts. Meanwhile our national team’s outstanding results have shown that the attention given to sports by the Government in recent years leads to tangible results; that all our actions and investments were not in vain.

Naturally, we will not stop here. You know that one of our major Siberian cities, Krasnoyarsk, is bidding to host the 2019 Winter Universiade. And Krasnoyarsk certainly deserves it. First and foremost, people are counting on the development of the city’s transport infrastructure, airport, roads and athletic infrastructure.

Naturally, for a city located in the centre of Siberia, the Universiade would certainly be more than just a major international event; it would also provide additional momentum for engaging in winter sports, which are so well-loved throughout our nation overall, but especially in Siberia, and will allow for the creation of a world class national winter sports centre and generally promote, as I already said, the integrated development of the entire territory.

Friends, our nation just hosted the Universiade for the second time. The first time was in Moscow 40 years ago. Today, we are living under fundamentally different political and socioeconomic conditions: education, culture and sports are exceptionally important for our society.

The Universiade covers all of these areas, providing a great deal of momentum for their development, including in terms of international cooperation. After all, and I’m sure you know this better than anybody else, the Universiade does not limit itself to athletic rivalry. It is a unique opportunity to foster international and interethnic dialogue, strengthening friendship between young people from different nations.

I congratulate you again on your decisive victories in the Kazan Universiade. I wish you future success and, of course, new triumphant and glorious victories.

Thank you very much.


Question: I’m on the rhythmic gymnastics team but want to speak on behalf of all the athletes. It’s upsetting to hear the talk going around that the Russian team sent professional sportspeople to compete in the Universiade. This isn’t true. We’re all students, all at university, and we simply trained hard and wanted to win. What do you think about this kind of talk?

Vladimir Putin: First of all, if we look at the objective things such as goals, points and seconds, look at their quality, we see that they really are world class results.

Second, we have a big team, more than 600 people, 660 I think, and only 174 of them competed in London. Seventy percent of the team is younger now. Also, we have been putting a lot of effort into developing youth and student sport with an aim too, to create a pool of talent for our national Olympic teams in the various disciplines.

Third, we held these World Student Games here, in Russia, and of course we were set on winning. We achieved this victory. You achieved it. That’s one side of things.

”Our national team’s outstanding results have shown that the attention given to sports by the Government in recent years leads to tangible results.“

On the other side there is also what I suppose you could just call human nature. It’s sad, but there have always been people here ready to start tut-tutting away when they see our rivals’ successes, see them winning abroad, and they shake their heads and say, “What a great job they do. Who do we think we are trying to get into their league? As if our poor pygmies could ever reach their heights.”

And when we do achieve impressive victories such as yours, they start lamenting that something’s not right here. It’s hard not to suggest to them that they take up sport themselves, and if their health prevents them from doing so, they should go see a doctor. If all else fails, they can always try Viagra, we’re all adults here, who knows, maybe that will help and they’ll start seeing some brighter colours in life, start seeing a future.

I think all this is just loose-talk. It isn’t worth paying it too much attention. It’s more important to keep moving ahead. You are all young, talented, energetic people. I already mentioned that 70 percent of the team is younger now since the London Games. Yes, we have a strong team, and this is a good thing. But it can and must grow even stronger. This depends on you. 

I wish you success.

Question: We know you pay close attention to student sport. This explains why our Student Union earned such international recognition at the Kazan Universiade. Following on from Kazan, we can develop sports centres, student centres, like the ones in Kazan, in Krasnoyarsk and other big cities say. What do you think of this initiative? 

Vladimir Putin: I think it’s a good idea.

We need to work on developing the mass side of student sport more than anything. I met recently with the students and discussed this organisation, which plans to work precisely on developing mass student sport.

We spoke about the importance of developing sport at the universities themselves, but this does not mean that students could not use university sport grounds and also use the excellent facilities we have built for the Universiade and other big sports events.

On the contrary, all of this can and must be used. This requires organising working relations with the heads of universities and sports clubs, and with the officials in the towns where the facilities are located, in order to make sure they are in constant use. This is already the way things are working, and it will continue this way.

Question: Mr President, everyone is very worried at the moment about wrestling’s fate and whether or not it will stay on the Olympic programme. We know that you have made a lot of effort to keep wrestling on the programme. My question is, do you think these efforts will succeed? 

Vladimir Putin: I certainly hope so. I talked about this recently with my friends from the International Olympic Committee — over these years that we’ve been working on the Sochi Olympics many of the IOC members really have become my friends. 

I cannot say now what the final outcome will be, but many of them are inclined to the view that wrestling should stay. We will continue our efforts, continue to convince those on whom the decision depends that wrestling should stay on the Olympic programme.

I really hope that this will be the case. The ancient Olympics began with wrestling and athletics after all. I cannot really imagine the Olympics without these traditional, classical sports.

”We are sure that Kazan will become a starting point for your brilliant future victories and successes, especially since many of you will soon participate in the IAAF World Championships in Moscow and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.“

Some people say that wrestling is not such a good spectator sport, but let me assure you that this is just a question of PR, of how you promote it, how you show and explain the competitions. Sadly, the International Wrestling Federation’s previous management did not give this area the attention it needed.

I’m not judging them, not saying that the Federation did a good or bad job. It’s not up to me to judge, but this external aspect of things did not receive the attention it needed. I hope that the situation will change and wrestling will stay. It is a very exciting, thrilling sport. 

Rules change of course, and they probably have to in order to make the sport even more exciting for the spectators, but this is a job for the specialists. As for whether or not it will stay on the Olympic programme, I hope that it will. We will keep working on this.


Vladimir Putin: The Sports Ministry has indeed made a lot of effort, not just to organise the World Student Games, but also in its regular, everyday work. There is still a lot more to do though. We still do not have good facilities for all the different sports.

Take archery, for example. We have excellent archers and they do well, but we haven’t made progress yet in building facilities for them. Of course, good facilities are not the only thing that counts, but in modern sport it is very hard to achieve real top-level results without them, as you know well.

I am sure that the Sports Ministry at the federal level, with the minister, Vitaly Mutko, and the heads of the regional organisations will do everything within their power to keep developing sport in Russia.

I think we can be proud of what we have achieved in developing sport over recent years. But when you compare the number of people who play sport to the figures in some European countries say, we are still lagging behind. This is an important statistic because it reflects overall development of sport and physical culture.

The Sports Ministry must not act as if this side of things has nothing to do with them, and their job is just to develop top-level sport. We need to help the regions, and the regions need to remember that this is their responsibility above all. But to give our officials the credit they deserve, they really have been putting their hearts into their work and we hope to see even greater results from them, results like yours at the World Student Games.

Question: Mr President, I am a trainer in shooting, men’s, rifle and team shooting. I think that we performed well – we won 9 gold medals, 7 silver, and 3 bronze.

We liked the shooting range in Kazan very much and want to thank the people who built it. But sadly, there are not so many training centres, shooting ranges of this kind around the country. 

During the difficult 1990s, or at the start of the 2000s rather, we were very grateful to get the excellent shooting range at Lysaya Nora, which gives us the chance to train and prepare for various competitions and also act as host venue for various national competitions.

A very good shooting range opened recently at Novogorsk. It is an indoor centre that can be used in winter and is very convenient for use, good for preparing for international competitions. Now we also have this excellent range in Kazan, which I hope will have a long life ahead of it.

I would very much like to see a children’s and young people’s sports school opened there, or perhaps an Olympic training centre. I think we need to build more of these kinds of facilities, more shooting ranges. Our sport is a very interesting one. Perhaps it’s like you said, and it’s a question of knowing how to promote and show off your sport in the right way.

The format of finals rounds of competitions has changed now and it makes things very interesting. I think that following on from the World Student Games we will see a lot of new people taking up shooting. I hope that the facilities that have been built will get a lot of use. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I think this will be the case.

As for Kazan, regarding your sport, I can say that it is not only a good sport in terms of its results and the prizes and medals taken in international competitions, but it is also good preparation for serving in the armed forces.

I think the armed forces personnel currently completing military exercises in the Far East realise this, and I am very much aware of this, as are the relevant ministry heads. We will do our best to support your federation.

Ms Viner-Usmanova, go ahead.

Irina Viner-Usmanova: Mr President, guests of our Novogorsk,

I say “our” because I live here since … No one lives so long as I live here with the kids. Time passes by and this desolate little place has turned into a marvellous training base for various sports, one of the best in the world, especially for rhythmic gymnastics. There are still a few improvements I’d like to see made, but we are sorting this out now with Mr Mutko.

The important thing I want to share with you, tell you about, is that I visited the athletes’ village. Maybe the young people here don’t know, but I’ve been to many Olympics, and I’ve never seen an athletes’ village such as the one in Kazan at any Olympics, not to say anything about World Student Games, never.

They are marvellous hotels, clean and orderly, and will be used by students afterwards, unlike in Barcelona, where the flats they built were then sold off. Another important point is the food. That’s very important for us, very important for all sports I think.

Vladimir Putin: You never eat anything, what’s food to you?

Irina Viner-Usmanova: That’s the part of the story that doesn’t get told, what we eat and how we inspect even what gets thrown out. If we find a lolly wrapper in the rubbish, that’s it, there’s a scandal. The beauties sitting there know all about this. 

But we didn’t have any trouble in Kazan because it really was a wonderful hotel, and the so-called canteen was actually a five-star restaurant, if not better. There were cuisines from all over the world on offer, the freshest produce, fantastic fish of different kinds, quite simply a dream menu.

I remembered the Olympics in Atlanta, where we were housed in a student hostel that looked more like a prison, with bars on the windows and a canteen filled with the din from the humming air conditioners. It was like a vegetable wholesale warehouse, that canteen, and that was the Olympic Games.

I want to thank everyone who took part in this work, and you too of course, Mr President. You were the main mover and inspirer behind giving us this very impressive cluster town and organising this Universiade. As for the talk about us sending professional athletes to compete, that’s all nonsense. 

These professionals are all students, and these students are all professionals. We had real sportspeople competing, the people who deserved to compete, and they got the results they did because how could it be otherwise with the conditions the government and the country are giving them now. No other country in the world is doing so much as we are doing for our athletes, and so we have a duty to perform well. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you for your kind words.

Regarding the hostels where the athletes lived, they really are hostels, but each of them was the result of careful design and planning and after housing the sportspeople they will be used as student hostels.

Some of the facilities were already in use in fact. Students had already been living there for two years in some cases. Now we have completed and handed over the medical centre and exercise rooms. This will all be used by the university and students will live there.

I think that Ms Viner-Usmanova made an important point. The work we put into organising these kinds of events is not just about supporting sport, which goes without saying, but is also about developing other areas of young people’s lives too, especially student life.

Kazan clearly demonstrates this. As Ms Viner-Usmanova said, we did not just build housing with the aim of then selling it commercially as apartments and making money. All of this will go to our young people, Kazan’s students in this particular case. We will try to follow the same practice as much as possible in our work on other big events.

Thank you very much. Once more, I congratulate you most sincerely.

July 19, 2013, Novogorsk training centre, Moscow Region