Oleg Matytsin and Vladimir Leonov have one password: ‘Go for it!’
“Universiade foremen” have had new challenges
A meeting of the Tatarstan Ministry of Sport gathered a number of high-ranking guests chaired by Russian Minister of Sport Oleg Matytsin. This sports year promises to be incredibly tough because of the already forgotten accretion of two Olympics, the habitual ban on Russian teams and still topical restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.
What is Tatarstan for Matytsin?
For Russia’s Sport Minister Oleg Matytsin, Tatarstan is both a strategically important region and serious helper in developing sport. In general, this is what his two predecessors thought too. Vyacheslav Fetisov began his novelties with Tatarstan when our republic met him halfway in 2003 by hosting the First Summer Student Spartakiade, Fetisov’s sport brainchild.
The 1st Russian Summer Universiade took place here too in 2008, the competition united, by the way, both Fetisov and Matytsin. However, this tournament was held when Vitaly Mutko who sincerely loved Tatarstan led the Sport Ministry. In his ministerial career, the first competition, a qualifier for the Russian athletic championships, was held here when Zenit FC’s former president was only familiarising with the yet unclear specifics of individual sports. The grandiose World Summer Universiade was hosted here in 2013. By the way, both Mutko and Matytsin helped host it. Back to Oleg Matytsin, we should say that he “surrounded” himself by people who organised that Universiade because Igor Sivov helps him in FISU and Azat Kadyrov does in Russia’s Ministry of Sport.
Finally, Tatarstan won’t be etched only on people’s memory. The main competition of swimmers, Russian Championship — a qualifier for Tokyo 2021 — will be held here, while we are pinning our hopes on swimming now. As there are a big number of medals and strong athletes (sadly, we have to remind you that once all this referred to athletics). And Tatarstan as a region is in the top 3 strongest places to develop both summer and winter sports, therefore Matytsin will count on the “Tatars” when preparing for Beijing 2022.
Tatarstan Prime Minister Alexey Pesoshin mentioned this in his speech too. He noted that 31 athletes continued their preparation for the Olympic Games in 13 sports with the national team, while three Paralympians were preparing to compete in two sports. They and their colleagues participated in 32 big international competitions in 2020, the republic hosted eight of them. 17 big competitions are scheduled to be held this year, nine of them are international. The number of tournaments is smaller, first of all, because all sports life accumulated in these competitions during the Olympic year. However, Tatarstan keeps competitively fighting for the right to host the World Fencing Cup and World Swimming Cup.
“Universiade fathers” and representatives of “aquatic world”
Severn years ago, they gathered and worked on the Summer Universiade. The only thing is that each of them occupied a different position at that moment. Today’s Russian Sport Minister Oleg Matytsin was FISU president and now combines these two posts. Vladimir Leonov chaired the Universiade Executive Directorate and then replaced Rafis Burganov as Tatarstan sport minister. They met in Burganov’s place — the Volga sports academy acting rector Mr Burganov leads now. And Marat Bariyev who “invented” the scenario of the Universiade in Kazan who got this right as sport minister was the fourth person in this company.
At the meeting, they all listened to the report of the republican Ministry of Sport with key takeaways.
By the way, Tatarstan gathered the management of those sports at the meeting that it has been focused on in the last decade. Russia’s Swimming Federation President Vladimir Salnikov and Vice President of the Artistic Swimming Federation Tatiana Pokrovskaya from time to time began discussing something vividly at the meeting. A day later, Pokrovskaya was going to present her book Tatiana Pokrovskaya and Her Team, but at the moment she thanked the management of the republic for the attention paid to developing the sport. Like Salnikov who was one of the most interested spectators of the Russian Swimming Championships in April, which was the key qualifier for competitions in Olympic Tokyo.
Mr Salnikov listened to a speech of one of his pupils Aleksandr Krasnykh who talked about the preparation of Tatarstan athletes for the two upcoming Olympics with interest. It was a difficult preparation, first of all, financially. Krasnykh said that the financing of Tatarstan athletes calculated in documents is very different from the money they have to pay in camps in sports bases of the national team in Novogorsk or the Round Lake. So Tatarstan planned that daily costs on an athlete were 1,120 rubles, while accommodation in the Round Lake base, in fact, is 5,260 rubles. And athletes have to pay the rest thanks to sponsors, though this can be calculated in the budget in advance.
To compare, 28,8 million rubles were allocated for sports grants in 2019, last year, only 6,4 million were. And these athletes aren’t super-rich football and hockey players but representatives of sports where every ruble counts.
Challenges for minister
This year for Oleg Matytsin is a challenge no Russian sport minister has ever faced. It is two consecutive Olympics, the summer and winter that were so close to each other a long time ago. To understand, the Olympics were divided in 1994, and our sports management spent time from Games to Games. Now both Olympics will be held in 6 months, so it will be very quick.
On the one hand, Matytsin is lucky that COVID-19 gave him time to start slowly, get acquainted with all sports economy he was indirectly linked with like Vitaly Mutko in 2008 who was very surprised at the nuances of sports. On the other hand, Matytsin is not a person who has nothing to do with sport, while the work in FISU taught him necessary diplomacy. By the way, he sincerely congratulated our biathletes at the weekend on their victory in the relay and skilfully avoided the question about the scandal with our skier Aleksandr Bolshunov. Vitaly Mutko would have certainly got into trouble and then tried to explain that the ministry, with all its capabilities, couldn’t not only command but also influence athletes who obey coaches who obey federations that are public organisations. And any interference of the ministry is considered public that’s punished with the disqualification of the federation itself.
Matytsin will have to live in the WADA reality that has almost officially legalised drugs in sport since 1 January. As a new code came into force: athletes in whose samples were found drugs can have the term reduced to three months. If a disqualified athlete received treatment, the term can reduce to one month. In other words, drug abusers can face a month of disqualification, while same Aleksandr Krushilnitsky who was punished for 4 years for the inoffensive heart medicine meldonium will have to serve a four-year (!) term.
This is today’s WADA that indifferently sees athletes keep dying due to heart issues when earlier this year the terrible list has had a new name of a 24-year-old football player from Portuguese Alverca Alex Apolinário who died due to cardiac failure.
If Mutko had remained as minister now, of course, he would have presented journalists several amazing speeches on these and other topics. But working and then guiding such an organisation as FISU, Matytsin became a diplomat a long time ago and skilfully bypassed all sensitive issues, including those about Russia as the host of the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship and the status of team Russia there. Moreover, there is already a historical experience of such competitions. In 2019, Thailand hosted the World Weightlifting Championship with the national team that was disqualified for the biggest number of positive doping tests.
However, Matytsin’s one sentence made the audience applaud, which cannot be called polite.
“I will certainly consider those proposals that have been voiced today, particularly that part of the report about the support for the countryside coach programme. My colleagues and I pay attention to it... (applause). I think it is early to applaud, but I accept this as trustworthiness. I hope 2021 will unlikely be much easier, but the professional team that works in Tatarstan inspires me with confidence that we will confidently look into the future. Go for it!”
“Go for it,” Leonov repeated.