Putin gives Russia team Kremlin send-off
President Vladimir Putin on Saturday urged the Russian Olympic team to bring victory for the country as he wished the sports stars well for the London Games at a glittering Kremlin ceremony.
To give extra inspiration, the special guest at the ceremony was the two-time Olympic discus champion Nina Ponomaryova, who won the first ever Olympic gold for the Soviet Union at the Helsinki Games in 1952.
London-bound athletes present included Olympic high jump champion Andrey Silnov, hammer thrower Tatyana Lysenko and the basketball legend and former NBA star Andrei Kirilenko.
“We all expect victories and results from you,” Putin told the athletes at the ceremony at the Alexander hall of the Great Kremlin Palace.
“I want to wish you that thanks to your victories the flag of the Russian Federation will be raised and the national anthem heard at the stadiums of London as much as possible.”
“Sport... is above all about believing in yourself and being able to be victorious over yourself. Show us again that you can do this!” said Putin.
Russia is hoping for a stellar performance at the London Games to reinforce its status as a sporting superpower after its winter sports stars flopped at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and it was knocked out of the Euro 2012 football in the first round.
Sporting success is a major priority for the political authorities as the country prepares to host the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Russia’s Olympic Committee (ROC) chief Alexander Zhukov has set a target of 25 gold medals at the London Games, just above the 23 golds Russia won at the Beijing Games four years ago.