The head of the Russian Orthodox Church held a prayer service in downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral on Thursday to see Russia's Olympic competitors off for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia wished some 250 athletes and trainers who gathered in the cathedral to show willpower and purpose to achieve success.
"Concentrate and do what the nation expects you to even if it's hard," Kirill said. "The country's sporting honor shapes our national identity and dignity."
The solemn ceremony to see the Russian team off started with a message from President Dmitry Medvedev read out by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov.
The patriarch said the prayer service was not only for the Orthodox. "Each person should feel involved," he said.
"We will pray that the Lord help and support you," he said.
Archpriest Nikolai Sokolov will accompany the Russian team to Vancouver. The Winter Olympics will be held on February 12-28.
MOSCOW, January 28 (RIA Novosti)