MOSCOW, March 24 (R-Sport) - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a formal order setting ambitious targets for the country’s athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics and 2020 Summer Olympics, a government statement said Sunday.
As part of a long-term initiative to boost Russians’ fitness levels and sporting prowess, in 2018 27.1 percent of the Russian Winter Olympic team will be expected to win medals in Pyeongchang, up from just 12 percent in Vancouver in 2010.
A more modest increase in the medal tally has been ordered for the 2020 Summer Olympics, where 31.1 percent of team members will be expected to reach the podium, compared to 29.6 percent at London 2012.
The targets reflected Russia’s heavily centralized sports system based around government targets. Sport and fitness have become major policy themes since Vladimir Putin started his third term as president last year.
Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on Friday admitted third place in the medal table at the country’s home Winter Olympics in Sochi next year would be “outstanding,” a far cry from the earlier target of 15 gold medals and first place in the table, set by Olympic committee chief Alexander Zhukov in January.
The plan signed by Medvedev also aims to double the proportion of Russians who regularly take part in sport or fitness activities to 40 percent, compared to 20 percent of the population in 2011.
Putin called for a revival of Soviet-era sports clubs for ordinary Russians earlier this month during a visit to a martial arts center, with the aim of improving Russian public health as the country struggles with a declining population.
A sevenfold rise in the proportion of disabled Russians doing sport or fitness work is also planned, up to 20 percent in 2010 from just three percent in 2011.
Disabled people in Russia often lack access to specialist facilities, but Mutko has vowed to build disabled sports bases in each of Russia’s 83 regions with the aim of improving the country’s performances at the Paralympics.