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Putin Suggests Olympic Funds Were Misspent

Money earmarked for Russia's Vancouver Olympics preparations might have been misspent, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.

"Maybe the money was spent not on what was needed but instead on what someone wanted to spend it on," Putin told top sports officials that he summoned for a grilling Friday about Russia's worst-ever performance at the Winter Games.

Putin, chairing a meeting to analyze the reasons behind the Olympic flop, said the government had spent about 3.5 billion rubles ($117 million) in three years to prepare for the Vancouver Games — a sum that he claimed was comparable with those spent by the nations that won the most medals.

"I have got an impression that the more money we spend, the more modest the results are," he said, adding that the sum was five times the amount that Russia had spent on preparations for the 2006 Winter Games in Torino.

Putin's remarks follow President Dmitry Medvedev's call for sports officials to step down or face dismissal. Russian Olympic Committee chief Leonid Tyagachyov handed in his resignation Thursday.

Putin said the entire system of training athletes now must be changed. He said the work of sports federations must become more transparent and they must produce step-by-step plans. He also urged stronger incentives for promising athletes and better pay for coaches.

"We must take the best from the Soviet system of training athletes and also use modern international experience," Putin said.

In nine Winter Olympics from 1956 to 1988, the Soviet Union failed to top the medal standings only twice, finishing runner-up on those occasions.

"Sochi is our national project, and we will pay the maximum attention to that," Putin said. "Millions of fans are waiting for our team to become the winner. In any case, it must be among the leaders in Sochi in 2014."

(Reuters, AP)

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