Russian President Seeks Heads Over Olympic Woes

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is not pleased with his country's medal tally at the Winter Olympics. Medvedev said the members of the Russian Olympic committee should resign, and if the officials don't want to step down, he said, "We shall help them."


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Russia entered the final weekend of Olympic competition deeply disappointed. In the final tally, Russia won just three gold medals, far below expectation and that has brought fallout. Today, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev demanded that the nation's top Olympic officials resign.

NPR's David Greene has the story.

DAVID GREENE: Yesterday's excitement, the Canada-U.S. hockey game, the closing ceremonies was painful for Russians. All they have is memories of what the final day at the winter games used to sound like, Soviet medals piling up.

(Soundbite of recording)

Unidentified Man #1: They took the bronze medal in '60, won the gold in '64, '68, '72, '76, the silver in '80 and the gold again here.

GREENE: That's ABC's coverage of the Soviet hockey team finishing off Czechoslovakia and winning gold the last day in '84.

(Soundbite of recording)

Unidentified Man #1: The Soviets controlled the pace and the tempo of the game.

GREENE: Russians probably didn't need a reminder that those days are gone.

President DMITRY MEDVEDEV (Russia): (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: But their president, Dmitry Medvedev, went on television this morning. He congratulated Russian athletes who performed well, but said there were too few of them. Then he delivered a stern message to officials who oversee Olympic sports in Russia.

Pres. MEDVEDEV: (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: They should make a brave decision and sign a letter of resignation, he said. No specific names, but Medvedev added a threat. If the officials he has in mind don't resign on their own, he said, we will help them. The president also gave Russians a reality check.

Pres. MEDVEDEV: (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: He said the days of the Soviet school are gone. He was talking about the Soviet Union's rigorous training of young athletes, critics considered it too rigorous. But it led to years of Soviet prowess at the Winter Olympics. Since the Soviet Union's collapse, the president said Russia has not yet found its own system.

Pres. MEDVEDEV: (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: This was a striking admission, given that Russia's athletes will be in a bigger spotlight in four years. Russia is hosting the winter games in the southern coastal city of Sochi. The planning has been a priority for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Pres. MEDVEDEV: (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: A few weeks ago, Putin said he hoped the Russian athletes in Vancouver would get extra motivation from the excitement building for the 2014 games in their own country. He summed up the planning for Sochi this way.

Mr. VLADIMIR PUTIN (Prime Minister, Russia): (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: It's cool, Putin said. Of course, when it comes to the weather, maybe not so cool.

Mr. PUTIN: (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: These forecasters on TV are saying (foreign language spoken), very warm. That's been the weather trend in Sochi lately.

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: If Sochi sees these temperatures four years from now, finding snow may be another item on the list of Russia's challenges.

David Greene, NPR News, Moscow.

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