From the transcript of a meeting of the Presidential Council for the Development of Physical Culture and Sport
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Mr Dmitry Chernyshenko and I have just opened five new sports facilities in several Russian regions on the sidelines of the Russia – Country of Sports Forum. They are located in the Bryansk, Kaluga, Magadan, Tyumen and Ulyanovsk regions.
During today’s meeting, we will focus on developing sports infrastructure around the country, in the regions, primarily those for promoting sports for the public.
It is obvious that the availability of these sports facilities, their quality and diversity have a direct bearing on the quality of life and health for millions of people and they enable people to exercise regularly. This infrastructure is also essential when it comes to creating incentives for people to practice sports and choose an active lifestyle and, even more importantly, a healthy life.
We have regular discussions on these matters and have emphasised its importance at the federal and regional levels, which has been yielding tangible results.
Over the past four years, the number of Russians who exercise regularly has increased from 40 to 53 percent, which amounts to almost 70 million people. This way, we can be sure to achieve our objectives. In 2024, 55 percent of people in Russia will exercise regularly and adopt a sports lifestyle, and by 2030 this percentage will have reached 70 percent, which is our stated objective.
Let me remind you that these are the benchmarks we have adopted in order to measure the performance of the relevant federal agencies, regions and municipalities in their efforts to promote public sports.
In order to deliver on this comprehensive task in full and without any reservations, we need to ensure the steady development of sports infrastructure across all regions of Russia. Of course, we must provide for a serious increase in the production of Russia sports goods and equipment.
The council working group has come forward with a proposal to establish sports manufacturing clusters for that by bringing together, within specific platforms, research and manufacturing capabilities and raising both public and private funding. I expect to hear about this in more detail today from our colleagues. You are welcome to outline specific measures to support companies in this sector in terms of funding and possible sources of funding. We need to work all this out so that the Strategy for Developing the Sports Sector through 2035 can be supplemented accordingly.
Regarding sports infrastructure, the issue at hand is even more daunting and complex. The number of sports facilities is on the rise, with over 353,000 today.
I would like to separately thank the heads of the regions who are upgrading and building stadiums and athletic grounds not only in their regions, but are actively helping to restore sports facilities in Donbass and Novorossiya.
I reiterate that this work should continue in all regions, cities, towns, and rural areas. Extra attention should be paid to using public spaces and city parks for sports activities. All the more so as this does not necessarily require massive construction projects. Simple measures such as installing exercise equipment or setting up well-lit ski trails or running tracks can make a significant difference.
We have guidelines for building flat structures and versatile non-capital complexes. These guidelines should be formally integrated into urban planning standards. This would compel local authorities and developers to create accessible sports facilities in courtyards, parks, green spaces, and waterfront areas for people of all ages and fitness levels, including families.
Particular attention should be paid to rural areas. I issued instructions earlier to develop a special “Sports in the Countryside” subprogramme and make it part of the existing national programme, Development of Physical Culture and Sport.
Regrettably, such a document has yet to be officially adopted. A distinct sports section, not just a collection of activities but a comprehensive section, project, or programme, is still missing from our plans for the development of community facilities and infrastructure in the countryside. It is imperative to understand the underlying reasons for this and, more importantly, to determine when the issue will be resolved substantively, rather than in reports and presentations.
Overall, I suggest that today we evaluate the progress in implementing the decisions related to sports infrastructure that were made during our council’s meetings. I am primarily referring to repairs and maintenance of the facilities that are used for mass sports and the establishment of favourable conditions in Russia for the training of our national teams.
According to the Audit Chamber’s report, 16 out of 53 Olympic sports, including skiing, rowing, cycling, and football, still lack their own training centres. Clearly, there have been delays in addressing this matter. I urge the Government to provide information about the steps being taken to ensure that all directives are executed with high quality and within the specified deadlines.
I reiterate that sports are a top national priority, and the approach to this sector should match its significance. This is especially true given the substantial funds allocated for supporting and advancing sports. In 2022, sports-related spending across all levels of budgets increased by 23 percent on the previous year, reaching a total of 537 billion rubles. This figure does not even include contributions from the private sector and our sports philantropists.
I urge the Government to explore additional measures for implementing concession-based approaches in sports and expanding the practice of public-private partnerships, especially when developing and operating sports facilities, including non- capital structures.
There is also room for enhancing the efficiency of target allocations from sports betting and raffles that are used for promoting sports. These funds are sent to promote children’s, youth, public and professional sports. It is important to make every ruble count. I am aware that there are questions in this regard, and we will address them today. I am interested to hear what you have to say.
We should also look into the way allocations from lotteries are being used, as I mentioned earlier. I will not delve into the specifics at this point, as I understand that some participants would like to share their thoughts on this issue, so please let’s have that discussion.
There is one more issue. During my recent remarks at the Russia – Country of Sports forum, I touched upon the idea of using our arbitration system, specifically the specialised arbitration court. I mentioned that not only Russian sports organisations and athletes, but our foreign partners as well, have the option to join and approach the Russian arbitration court. However, frankly, it is not as effective as it should be.
I request the Ministry of Sport and the Presidential Executive Office to join efforts and come up with proposals to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of this institution. Without fair competition, sports will stagnate. This is true for all different sports, be it scoring goals in soccer, assessing whether a handball occurred, or decisions in boxing, wrestling, and across sports in general. Without a fair sporting environment, interest in sports will fade and wither away.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on this issue. It should be an independent and credible institution, one that enjoys trust from all parties involved. It should be staffed by genuine legal experts, particularly those well-versed in sports law, who are known for their independence, competence, and respect in their field.
In closing, I would like to emphasise the following important point. The task of developing sports, which is crucial for our country and our citizens, is not addressed solely by the Government, ministries, regions, and local authorities. A substantial part of this responsibility lies with non-governmental organisations, such as physical fitness and sports associations, sports clubs, various sports leagues, associations, and sports federations, along with educators at schools and universities, and dedicated sports enthusiasts.
Their enthusiasm and active participation are integral to the promotion of a culture of healthy and active lifestyles in Russia. Without a doubt, the state must support these efforts.
I propose dedicating an upcoming council meeting to this theme. We will convene an expanded meeting to explore the role of non-governmental organisations in promoting physical fitness and sports, as well as consider how authorities at all levels can assist their work. We should aim to remove red tape from this movement and broaden its scope.
I urge the Government to examine this matter in advance and focus on interactions between Russian organisations and relevant international and continental bodies, and subsequently present a report with specific recommendations.
Vladimir Putin (commenting on a statement made by State Duma Deputy and President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation Vladislav Tretyak, who spoke, in part, about the construction of ice arenas and proposed that news programmes on federal channels should give more airtime to sports news and the results of matches and competitions): Of course, many ice hockey facilities have been built. I believe that the St Petersburg arena for ice hockey training and competitions is the largest one in Europe. I am sure that it will not stand empty in light of growing interest for ice hockey.
However, I have said many times that you and experts from the Ministry of Sport should decide what we should do with ice hockey dealers who pick the best kids in our sports schools and take them abroad.
It is clear that Russia is a free country. It is clear that everyone makes their own choice, and we must not prevent this. But it is also clear that this is a business, and one that is not always well-regulated and is not always ethical.
I have said many times that not enough is being done in this sense. I would like the Ministry of Sport and the Federation to take up this issue again. The dependence is substantial there, the money involved is huge, and the damage is obvious. There must be a clear legal framework and guarantees for the state and for everyone involved in these activities.
As for media attention, we will talk about this with the channels and also with online sources. This also has to do with the sports [administrations] themselves. They should promote their sports more actively using modern, attractive and creative ways.
Take a look at the data provided by the Ministry of Sport for the increase of people involved in different sports in 2016–2022. It is 350 percent for figure skating. Of course, it has traditionally been a popular sport in our country. On the other hand, they have learned to encourage public interest in their sport and to do this in style and in an attractive manner.
Cycling is 132 percent up, chess 63 percent, aerobics 60 percent, sambo 50 percent, rhythmic gymnastics 48 percent, and powerlifting 42 percent. The number of people in mountain skiing, which is an expensive sport, has increased by 41 percent, swimming 40 percent, badminton 38 percent, and the figure for table tennis is a meagre 5 percent, even though a tennis table can be installed in almost every hallway, if not an apartment. You just need to do it in earnest, and you will get the result 100 percent. I fully agree with you on that.
Vladimir Putin (replying to the speech by President of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation Irina Viner, who said that amid the external sanctions pressure and utter humiliation of Russia in various international federations, it is necessary to create new organisations that are not federations and are not part of international federations but are independent and able to take part in competitions with friendly countries and invite athletes to their events): I think that Ms Viner is right: there is great demand for new types of sports organisations today because these forms such as leagues, societies, club associations and others will definitely undermine the existing monopoly of international officialdom on global sports and international sports communication.
They [international officialdom] will have nothing to set against this broad public sports movement because it would be impossible to ban everything and everyone. They got a monopoly on sports medicine and then on the organisation of various competitions.
If we choose the wide path of democratisation of sports contacts, nobody will have anything to match against it because it would be impossible to put obstacles to people’s desire to communicate with each other in such a noble activity as sport. It will be impossible by definition.
Therefore, we need to choose the path of democratisation while not abandoning or driving our traditional sports organisations to bay; we will continue to support them. But the more inclusive and democratic sport is in Russia, the better and more interesting it will be for everyone.
Because the current developments in today’s international sports organisations are showing the signs of degradation. These organisations are too commercialised and this means that they depend on businesses, while businesses depend on the officials of various levels and on the political structure of the country. This is a sign of degradation. Sport and sports movement were created not to play a part in political squabbles but to unite people.
If we follow this logic, it means that we need to ban almost half of Arab countries from the sports movement, as well as Israel. It is still unclear who is doing what there, but sports restrictions, as we have seen recently, can be imposed immediately. We will not choose this path.
In order to let sport become a tool of international communication between people, it needs to be democratised. We should embark on this course, I absolutely agree.
I want to again get back to what Ms Viner said. It is necessary to develop and democratise the format of competitions. We have competitions with both the flag and national anthem. Mr Umar Kremlev [chair of the Executive Committee of the Russian Boxing Federation] holds them. He organised the work in such a manner that all international boxing tournaments are held with our flag and anthem. And if we expand this cooperation to clubs, leagues and others… Foreign athletes come to Russia, and our athletes take part in events abroad. It is just that we should not focus on the formats that were captured by other people with our silent agreement at the time. They are enjoying a monopoly and thus distorting the spirit of international sports competitions. As I said, we all know this because you are either former athletes or have been engaged in sport all your life. Sport, like art, should unite people, and now it is used to promote selfish political interests. This will pass, I am sure, with time. But we need to think about the future today.
Vladimir Putin: I would like to thank you all for the fact that, despite the difficulties that the outside world is trying to create for us, Russian sport is developing, developing at a good pace, and feeling confident. As my colleagues have said here, all these superficial things, all this political foam, will sooner or later be removed from sport – no one here doubts it. Our task is to develop mass sport in the country, to support it in the widest possible range of fields, and to help our elite athletes.
We have the resources for this. We just need to remember that the development of physical culture and sport in our country is one of the state’s top priorities. And this should not be mere words, rather it should be reflected in our specific actions, above all, in arranging the financing, in organising the work, in the personal attention of the state’s leadership, the Government, and the top officials of Russian regions.
We will do everything we can to support you – first of all, I am speaking to sports organisers – in your noble endeavours, in the development of Russian sport. Thank you very much.
My colleagues will certainly need to finalise the list of instructions in accordance with the proposals that have been made today.