Heads to Roll Over Poor Olympic Results

ReutersIOC chief Jacques Rogge, left, handing the Olympic flag to Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov in Vancouver on Sunday.

President Dmitry Medvedev promised Monday that heads would roll after Russia suffered its worst-ever performance at the Winter Olympics, warning "fat cat" sports officials to quit or be fired.

Russia ranked 11th with only three gold medals at the Vancouver Games, a stunning fall from its fourth-place finish with eight golds at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. Making matters worse, Russia is the host of the next Winter Games in Sochi.

Final Olympic Games medals table
Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Canada 14 7 5 26
2 Germany 10 13 7 30
3 U.S. 9 15 13 37
4 Norway 9 8 6 23
5 South Korea 6 6 2 14
6 Switzerland 6 0 3 9
7 China 5 2 4 11
7 Sweden 5 2 4 11
9 Austria 4 6 6 16
10 Netherlands 4 1 3 8
11 Russia 3 5 7 15
12 France 2 3 6 11
13 Australia 2 1 0 3
14 Czech Republic 2 0 4 6
15 Poland 1 3 2 6
16 Italy 1 1 3 5
17 Slovakia 1 1 1 3
17 Belarus 1 1 1 3
19 Britain 1 0 0 1
20 Japan 0 3 2 5
21 Slovenia 0 2 1 3
21 Croatia 0 2 1 3
23 Latvia 0 2 0 2
24 Finland 0 1 4 5
25 Kazakhstan 0 1 0 1
25 Estonia 0 1 0 1
Total86 87 85 258

* Two silvers were awarded in the men’s biathlon 20km individual event and no bronze.

— Reuters

United Russia officials promised to personally make sure that Russian athletes would be ready to compete in 2014.

"The responsible officials should take the brave decision and sign a resignation letter," Medvedev said at a meeting with senior United Russia officials. "If they can't, we will help them."

Medvedev, who scrapped a planned trip to the closing ceremony in Vancouver amid Russia's lackluster showing, did not name any names. But other politicians have placed the blame squarely on Russian Olympic Committee head Leonid Tyagachov and Sports, Tourism and Youth Policy Minister Vitaly Mutko.

Neither official gave any indication Monday that they might resign.

Russian Olympic Committee spokesman Gennady Shvets said his committee was not at fault for Russia's performance because it only filled "representative functions" and the main responsibility lay with Mutko's ministry, Russian News Service reported.

Ministry officials were not available for comment. Many of them, including Mutko, were either in Vancouver or flying back to Moscow.

Mutko is scheduled to deliver a report on the Olympics to the State Duma on April 7.

The pro-Kremlin Nashi youth group said Monday that it would help Tyagachov make up his mind by sending him a resignation letter to sign.

At least one official has already lost his job, albeit a non-Russian. Russian Ski Jumping Federation chief Vladimir Slavsky told reporters last week that he had fired German coach Wolfgang Steiert, who had trained the Russian team for the past six years.

Russia took a total of 15 medals in Vancouver, including three gold, five silver and seven bronze. Previously, its worst performance was at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, where it won five golds and a total of 13 medals.

Medvedev said Monday that the government had funneled "unprecedented sums of money" into preparing for the Vancouver Games but money could not fix everything.

"We have benefited from Soviet achievements for a long time. At some point they ran out. We have lost the Soviet sports school, it is simply gone, but we have not formed our own system," Medvedev said.

He also hinted at corruption, saying a new system must be developed in which athletes, not sports officials, gain from government spending.

"The athlete, not federations, those fat cats, must be given priority," he said.

The state has poured tens of millions of dollars into training for the Winter Olympics, including $25 million last year and $22 million in 2008, according to the Sports, Tourism and Youth Policy Ministry.

Last week, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia needed to learn a  lesson from Vancouver, but he did not mention any shakeup of sports officials.

Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov told Medvedev on Monday that United Russia, whose executive council he chairs, would supervise preparations for the Sochi Games.

"In fact, the team's victory in Sochi in 2014 is a national project for Russia," Gryzlov said, according to a statement distributed by United Russia.

He said a radical approach should be developed to train athletes, without elaborating.

Gryzlov, 59, is known as a sports fan and even wrote a football anthem in support of Russia's national team two weeks ahead of the UEFA European Football Championship in 2008, when the team unexpectedly made it to the semifinals.

Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov, a United Russia member who was elected last year in a race decried by the opposition as unfair, accepted the Olympic flag at the closing ceremony Sunday. Russian-born model Natalya Vodyanova hosted a short presentation of Russia's plans for the Sochi Games. It made no mention of how many gold medals Russia hoped to win.

Fun Vancouver Facts and Figures

Own the Olympics
Canada’s “Own the Podium” campaign paid dividends. Their table-topping 14 gold medals set a new record for the highest number won in a single Olympics.

Switched On
Canada’s men’s Olympic ice hockey 5-3 group defeat to the United States became the most-watched sports program in Canadian history with 10.6 million viewers — more than a third of the country’s population.

Olympic First
Continuing the TV trend, Vancouver’s opening ceremony, the first to be held indoors, was the most-watched television event ever in Canada with an average of 13.3 million viewers.

Medal Breakers
The United States set a new record for the highest total of medals won at a single Olympic Winter Games with 37. Germany had set 36 at Salt Lake City in 2002.

Norway’s 100th
Tora Berger’s first Olympic gold medal in the women’s 15-kilometer individual event marked Norway’s 100th gold at a Winter Games, making it the first country to reach the landmark.

Oh Yes for Ohno
American Apolo Anton Ohno became his country’s most decorated Winter Olympian at the Vancouver Games, surpassing speed skater Bonnie Blair. The bandana-clad short-track skater is also the sport’s most successful athlete with eight medals.

Finnish Flash
Finland’s Teemu Selanne became the all-time leading scorer in Olympic ice hockey at the Vancouver Games. The 39-year-old broke the record in a group game with Germany and was handed the puck as a memento. He has 20 goals and 17 assists during Olympic competition.

Dutch Gold
Nicolien Sauerbreij’s gold medal in the women’s snowboarding parallel giant slalom handed the Netherlands a first Winter Olympics gold outside speed skating and figure skating. It also marked her country’s 100th gold medal in Summer and Winter Games.

Canadian Curse
Freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau became the first Canadian to win Olympic gold at home with a victory in the men’s moguls, breaking a curse that had plagued both of their previous games staged in Montreal (summer 1976) and Calgary (winter 1988).

Steady Germans
Germany was the only nation to win a medal in every day of competition at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The Vancouver Games had an operating budget of $1.75 billion Canadian dollars ($1.66 billion). The figure does not include the security budget of 900 million Canadian dollars, funded mostly by the Canadian federal government.

Some 5,000 athletes and officials and 10,000 members of the media have descended on Vancouver and Whistler for the games, as well as tens of thousands of spectators.

— Reuters

See also:

Possible Olympic Ban for Russian Weightlifting Team 'Insanity' Says Mutko

Who is Mr Mutko, Russia's Embattled Sports Minister?

IOC Supports IAAF Decision to Ban Russian Track and Field Athletes

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