SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Following up on Monday’s blog about Russian President Medvedev’s call for resignations within the Russian sports federation, it appears that heads are already falling, but there is confusion as to whose heads are involved! Witness the New York Times article that reports the resignation of the Russian Olympic Committee head, Leonid Tyagachyov. With in an hour, Bloomberg News carried a story denying that Tyagachyov had resigned!
Undoubtedly the truth will be sorted out soon enough, but I think the consequences of Russian President Medvedev’s public comments Monday concerning the poor results of the Russian athletes in Vancouver are just beginning. With the Sochi Winter Games (2014) being promoted as a vehicle of Russian propaganda in the 21st century, it is necessary to quickly restructure the Russian sports federation. And what better way to start than by cleaning house at the top.
(There is a lesson here for our own CFC! But CFC President Eric Van Dusen lacks the courage to do so!)
Ousted! But when?
Russian Olympic Chief Quit
March 3, 2010
By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
MOSCOW—The head of Russia’s Olympic Committee has become the first official to heed President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s demand for resignations following the poor showing by Russian athletes at the Winter Games in Vancouver.
Medvedev; taking no prisoners
Leonid V. Tyagachyov, the Olympic Committee head, tendered his resignation on Wednesday, the committee spokesman, Gennady Shvets, said on Russian television. Mr. Tyagachyov said he was “prepared to heed the call of conscience or that feeling of guilt peculiar to the Russian person, even though the Olympic committee does not answer directly for athletic results,” Mr. Shvets said.
Russians brought home only three gold medals out of a total of 15 from Vancouver, a far cry from the glory days of the Soviet Union when Russians dominated international athletics. This week, Mr. Medvedev decried the state of Russian athletics and called on officials to “have the courage to submit their resignation.”
Given the level of Kremlin anxiety just four years before Russia hosts the next Winter Games in Sochi, Mr. Tyagachyov’s resignation was unsurprising.
Putin with Tyagachyov in better times
A former head trainer of the Soviet ski team, Mr. Tyagachyov was named head of the Olympic Committee in 2001. During his tenure, the Russian government began allocating funds to revive the country’s athletic infrastructure, which had been left to rot during the chaotic days following the Soviet Union’s demise.
But coaches and athletes have complained that this money has often become tied up in the knotty bureaucracy that seems to pervade all aspects of life here. In his comments earlier this week, Mr. Medvedev suggested that Russia’s athletic system was set up to favor the “fat cats” in charge of sports federations rather that athletes.
Other politicians have weighed in with similar criticisms, calling for a sweeping overhaul of the country’s athletic bureaucracy.
“At the Olympics our athletes were helpless in the sense that they had no support from the leadership in their preparation,” said Vladislav A. Fetisov, the former hockey star, who is now a senator in Russia’s upper house. “We need to identify highly responsible and professional people, who can answer for our sports,” he said in parliament on Wednesday, Interfax reported.
Putin with Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko
So far, no other officials have submitted their resignations, though calls have grown louder for the sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, to step down. Asked about his plans on Russian television on Tuesday, Mr. Mutko was ambiguous.
“I will leave absolutely calmly, he said, “but I don’t know if athletics will benefit as a result.”
Russian Olympic Committee Denies
By Anastasia Ustinova
March 3 (Bloomberg) — The Russian Olympic Committee denied media reports that its president, Leonid Tyagachev, had resigned after the country’s worst-ever Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Earlier, the Interfax news service reported that Tyagachev had resigned, citing committee spokesman Gennady Shvets.
Tyagachev’s spokeswoman, Darya Chervonenko, said the report was incorrect. “Shvets was in a hurry to have Tyagachev resign,” she said by telephone from Moscow, adding that the Olympics chief is in hospital with pneumonia.
President Dmitry Medvedev said on March 1 that the officials responsible for the poor showing in Vancouver should “do the manly thing” and step down as Russia prepares to host the 2014 Winter Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Russia finished the Vancouver Games with three gold medals, its worst showing since it began competing in 1956. The Russian team won a total of 15 medals, sixth among competing countries, according to the Games Web site. The hockey team’s 7-3 quarterfinal defeat to Canada, the first Olympic loss to its rival in 50 years, was high on the list of Russia’s disappointments.
Russia must “fundamentally change” the way it trains athletes, Medvedev said. An athlete should head up preparations for Sochi, not the bureaucratic “fat cats” now in charge, he said.
Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s minister for sports, tourism and youth policy, said yesterday that he was prepared to step down if necessary, though he noted that the current sports leadership wasn’t responsible for the team’s performance in Vancouver.
Happier times: you can see Tyagachev in the background (holding the Russian flag) celebrating when Sochi was awarded the 2014 Winter Games.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party will take “special control” of preparations for the Sochi games, said Boris Gryzlov, chairman of the party and speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament.
Russia’s performance in Vancouver resulted from a “systemic failure,” Gryzlov said.
Sergei Prikhodko, Medvedev’s foreign-policy aide, said he bet against Russia’s hockey team taking a medal in Vancouver, adding that Russia’s overall performance was “beyond bad.”