The Who’s Who of the international Olympic movement descended on Moscow this weekend to celebrate the Russian Olympic Committee’s centenary. It was marked with a ball for Russia’s past and present Olympic champions, and its future hopefuls.
The London summer Olympics are just around the corner, and most athletes are in their final stages of preparation. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why the guests at the Olympic ball were largely the heads and functionaries of various sports organizations from around the world.
But the stars of the past were on hand to enjoy some well-deserved praise from the big wigs and today’s athletic talents.
“I think a true Russian is the one who takes pride in Russia’s difficult and sometimes controversial legacy, and in the Russian language. I mean both the history and the language – the names of our heroes, heroes of Russia, are carved in them, they are part of them and it is important that all our people feel related to their achievements while the rest of the world feels aware that Russia is a nation of a multitude of Olympic records,” said three-time Olympic wrestling champion, Aleksandr Karelin.
The event was held right next to the Kremlin and did not go unnoticed by Russia’s leadership with Vladimir Putin joining the party to congratulate all the country’s athletes, past and present, and highlighting Olympic values in modern society.
“We are proud of the fact that Russia was practically one of the originators of the Olympic movement. We share and support the Olympic philosophy and values and the ideas of Baron de Coubertin. Talent, hard work, the spirit of friendship and solidarity, fair competition and noble victories – these things are part of any nation’s character. These values help to unite humanity and bring nations closer together,” Putin stressed in his address.
The prime minister later joined the presidents of the Russian and International Olympic committees at the ball, where the trio must have had plenty to discuss, given that the biggest country on Earth is about to take center stage in a number of high-profile international sporting spectacles.
“Russia’s cities will soon become the grounds of major global sporting events. I am referring to the Universiade, the Sochi Olympics, the football and hockey world cups and many other major competitions,” Putin said, adding: “We understand how important these events are for the future of Russia, for the young people of our country, the entire Russian nation and for the cause of promoting the values of a healthy lifestyle.”
Russia’s next major international event takes place in two years’ time when Kazan hosts the 2013 University Games. For now though, celebrations aside, the country’s eyes are on the athletes who are about to be tested at the 2012 Olympics in London.