Kazan Universiade heads Russian sports renaissance
Updated: 2013-07-19 16:19
KAZAN, Russia - The 27th World University Games concluded Wednesday in Kazan would not only boost the Volga river city's full-fledged growth, but revitalize the apparently stagnated sports in Russia as well as help foster a stable and sound society, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said.
"Russia has not been able to strengthen the sports since 1990s, and it was in 2009 that an outline for development of the sector was established by the federal government," Mutko said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
Labeling sports as "a prominent factor" in social policies, Mutko said currently about 24 percent of the population practice sports regularly.
"Our goal is that, by 2020, the ratio will rise to 40 percent, 80 percent of which are teenagers," he said.
To that end, the federal government allocated an annual sum of 20 billion rubles ($620 million) since 2009 while another 300 billion rubles (about $9 billion) were collected by local government.
"More than 4,000 stadiums have been built in the last four years," Mutko said, adding the government was also devoted to sports educating and publicity in high schools and universities.
Speaking of recent critics on the cost from local media, the minister admitted that about 10 billion rubles ($310 million) have been used to support the operation of the Universiade and another 228 billion rubles ($7 billion) to better the infrastructure.
"Undoubtedly it is a big sum, but we believe each of the investments is expected to see a return, a long-term return," Mutko said.
He also denied media reports that Russia has sent all its top athletes to Kazan in a bid to retrieve confidence as President Vladimir Putin slashed "unsatisfying" results in London 2012 Olympics and other major sports competitions.
"Of the 663-athletes delegation, 89 people have attended Olympics, 18 of them are gold medal winners. Meanwhile, five of them fail to win gold medals here in Kazan," Mutko said.
"Our team is getting younger. Take the synchronized swimming team as an example, half of the athletes are newcomers, and they are competing in Kazan to prepare for 2016 Olympics to some degree," he added.
The famous sports fan, who watched a series of competitions during the twelve-day fiesta, said he was deeply impressed in 2008 when he went to Beijing.
"The Beijing Olympic Games presented the world a wholly new China," Mutko said. "Before, the city was somehow 'aged'. But after getting off the plane, I was surprised to see gorgeous airport, flat roads, numerous overpasses, comfortable hotels and passionate people."
"We want to make a difference like Beijing does," the minister said.
So far, more than 800,000 tickets have been sold in the city with about 1.2 million registered residents. "The enthusiasm for sports among the people is obviously rising," he added.