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Belarus planning large-scale reforms in sport prior to Olympics 2020

Bread and circuses! - these aspirations of the Roman people have not very much transformed after many centuries in different parts of the earth.

This principle is often linked to the interests of the state. The main trends of the week in Belarus were oil and sport (in fact bread and circuses). Oil refining brings every fifth or sixth dollar to the export of Belarus. Sport, besides being an entertainment, is both big politics and the most serious advertising of the country! Advertising, as you know, brings considerable economic effect. So, oil and sport were the key topics in the working schedule of President Lukashenko. Let's try to understand all the subtleties.

As you know, everyone understands politics, medicine and... sport. This is the second serious event with the participation of the head of state in recent weeks that is dedicated to sports policy. This time this was a planned occasion at the National Olympic Committee. Alexander Lukashenko has been head of the NOC since 1997. Therefore, he knows first-hand both the visible and backstage life of sport. The objectives are real though grandiose! Yulia Beshanova has more details.

Sport of high achievements has long gone beyond stadiums and arenas. Each athlete's performance reflects the work of the whole team. The new squad of officials will have to solve problems in sport and make steps to Olympic victories. Alexander Lukashenko has retained his post of the NOC President. The leadership of many federations has changed. Andrei Astashevich has become first vice-premier. Vice-presidents are now rector of the University of Physical Education Sergei Repkin and head of the Ice Hockey Federation Semyon Shapiro.

Andrei Astashevich, First Vice-President of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus:
We will pay more attention to mass sport, general development of sport. In regions outside Minsk we have healthy, strong children, with sparkling eyes, ready to train and take part in competitions. We must create conditions for them.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
Today we optimized the whole country. Cost reduction at this stage is 25%. This is the essence of optimization. These are not only staff cuts. I ask you to support the proposal that we cut our appetites at the NOC, not by much, by 25%.

Over its sovereign history, Belarus has already firmly secured the status of a sports power. Names of Belarusian Olympians are inscribed in the history of the Games in gold letters.

Alexander Lukashenko:
In two years Belarus will host the European Games, and 2021 we will host the World Hockey Championship, the second in a short period of time. At the same time Europeans were trying to put up a fight for the right to host the event. Do you think that it's simple to beat Finland in the bid to host the IIHF WM 2021? Nevertheless, Belarus was given that right, because our people and our state did everything to prove to the Europeans and the world sports community that we are serious and sincere about these events.

The 2014-2016 Olympic cycle caused mixed feelings. On the one hand, the Games in Sochi brought Belarus to a new stage of the Olympic podium. On the other hand, Belarus took disastrous 40th place in the overall standings in Rio. Only 7 medals were won.

Alexander Lukashenko:
Fortieth place in the medal standings. Does this correspond to our investments in sports and the state's attention to this sphere? There is no need for us to seek excuses, blame the climate, Brazilians' disorganization or biased refs. Everyone understood that the Olympics in Rio was not a tourist trip. This is a very difficult exam. And everyone was on equal terms.

Belarus invests huge financial resources in sport and therefore Belarusians have the right to wait for the appropriate return. There are 38 ice arenas in Belarus, more than in Slovenia, which team has deprived Belarus the right to partake in the most important tournaments.

Another problem of the Belarusian sport: there are no reliable younger subs behind the backs of titled athletes. Children's and youth schools need to become the foundation of Olympic sports.

The main sports capital is made by athletes and coaches. The cornerstone is the level of coaches' training. From an organizational point of view, everything is in place in Belarus: institutions, higher education, a system of retraining. But high-class specialists are still a rare thing. Belarus often has to invite them from other countries.

Alexander Lukashenko:
I'm not against borrowing someone else's best practices. Let them work as consultants. But Belarusian personnel should grow around each of them. Understand, we can't hold a foreigner accountable. He works then packs his belongings and leaves. He won't work with all his soul and won't teach to love homeland.

Another issue is that athletes don't always have an opportunity to learn abroad and get international experience. This is why international tournaments are kind of stressful for them.

Igor Kostyukov, master of sports of international class, swimming:
Conditions are in place to train but we also need more international competitions. Back in the USSR, there was an opportunity to travel to other countries. This is the problem.

Olympics have long gone beyond the personal ambitions of athletes. This is the image of the country and a serious unifying force for any state. So in sport now, as during war, all means are often good. Doping scandals that broke out with regards to Belarus at the Summer Games seriously affected the outcome. Belarusian rowers, strong favorites, were banished from the competition.

Alexander Lukashenko:
Incomprehensible mess with medicines, meldonium and deprivation of medals of the Beijing and London Olympics painfully hit Belarusian image. Here we need a well-planned work to prevent this evil. We must be ready to competently counter unjustified pressure. We have settled part of complaints of the International Olympic Committee. But globally, as it turned out, federations are not ready to defend themselves. They do not know any international procedures, what to do in an emergency.

So Belarus is going to correct its sports policy in terms of sports facilities, the work of federations and the NOC itself. The countdown of the new Olympic cycle has already started. Preparing for the Olympics is like running a marathon: the main thing is to distribute energy and resources competently.

Belarus planning large-scale reforms in sport prior to Olympics 2020