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70% of Belarusian Olympians in Rio are debutants

Last week the Belarusian President handed Olympians the national flag. Let us hope that it will raise at least several times in Brazil and our athletes will again conquer Olympic medals. A farewell ceremony for the national team was held at the Palace of Independence. The first group of Belarusian athletes will travel to Rio de Janeiro on July 23.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
In Rio, the competition conditions will not be easy. They may be called severe. I am sure you will cope with this tremendous stress and show a good result. You will be supported not only by the nearest and dearest but also by the entire nation.
You feel better than others how important these victories are for all Belarusians. The Olympics have long gone beyond personal sporting achievements. This is big politics and a great honor to the state. Remember that your good results bring a positive image of Belarus and are an indicator of its success.

306 sets of medals will be contested at the 31st Olympic Games. Belarus will be represented in 25 sports. Special hopes are pinned on artistic gymnastics, weightlifting, rowing and canoeing, road cycle race and trampoline jumping. This year, Belarus decided to abandon specific medal plans.

Alexander Shamko, Minister of Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Belarus:
If we keep talking and reminding the athlete about the obligations, probably he or she will unlikely to succeed. But all those who do have motivation will achieve high results and climb to the highest step of the Olympic podium.

This is one of the final training sessions of Belarusian gymnasts at home. Girls are honing literally every move and ready to fight passionately for Brazilian gold. Daily exercises take 8 hours.

Bronze medalist of the Olympic Games in London, Lyubov Cherkashina is now flying to Brazil as coach of the national rhythmic gymnastics team.   

Lyubov Cherkashina, coach of the national rhythmic gymnastics team of the Republic of Belarus:
Now, on the first day, individual gymnasts act in four routines and this takes about 6-7 hours. It is very difficult. And the next day are the finals. It will be difficult, I'm 100% sure.

The Belarusian women's kayak team are training in Gomel. The weather is also like the one in Brazil: the temperature of 30°C has been recorded for four days. Then, the girls go to the final stage of preparation in the Czech Republic and finally to Rio.

Gennady Galitsky, senior coach of the Belarusian female kayak team:
We are ready to fight in Brazil. We have recently met with major competitors at the European Championships in Moscow, where we were second. We lost only to the Hungarian team, at the finish line.

Rio is itself preparing for the Olympics, though not all infrastructure is now ready.

Natalya Kuznetsova, tour guide (Rio de Janeiro):
The whole city is ready for the upcoming Olympic Games, and with open arms we are waiting for guests. Come to us, Olympians! The Belarusian national team, welcome to Brazil!

By the way, Copacabana promises the hosts of the Olympics serious medal chances. 

The main venue for the opening and closing of ceremonies of the Rio Olympics will be the legendary Maracana football stadium, the second largest in the world. For now, the organizers have managed to keep the main points of the ceremony in secret. The main intrigue is the Olympic torch.

Under the Belarusian flag in Rio will be a team combining experience with youth. The ratio is 30 to 70. That is, 70% of Belarusian athletes are Olympic debutants. This is the main intrigue: while we surely expect masters to win, debutants can bring surprises.

Vladimir Novitsky, sports commentator:
They put up a real fight against the veterans of sport and award-winning athletes from other countries. Want an example? Our Tatsiana Kholodovich at the recent European Championships. We of course would like more of such sensations.

Olympics is something bigger than a sport. This is an achievement factory - medical, chemical, and psychological. Often, the difference between athletes on the podium is only 2-3 hundredths of a second. Besides, sport, which should stay out of politics, today is increasingly transformed into a powerful tool of influence. Doping scandals may leave some Belarusians out of the Olympics too.

Vladimir Novitsky, sports commentator:
We see some political pressure on individual teams. For someone this is the removal of strong competitors. For some politicians this is the desire to satisfy their ambitions through sport. Honestly, you know, it's impossible to keep sport out of politics. But I would like this to be the case, of course!

Taking part in the Rio Games will be 10,500 athletes from 206 countries. Golf and rugby will be new Olympic sports this year. The Olympics will last 17 days.

Lyubov Cherkashina, rhythmic gymnastics coach of Belarus