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2 Mar, 2010 10:48

Following Russia’s failure in Vancouver, sports minister “ready to resign"

Following less-than-expected results at the Winter Games in Vancouver, Vitaly Mutko, the Sports, Tourism and Youth Policy Minister said he would be willing to tender his resignation.

By any standard, Russia’s medal haul at this year’s Olympic Games was expected to be quite heavy, with some experts putting the possible medal count above 30. Instead, Russia brought home just 3 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze medals – the worst result for Russia in any Winter Olympics.

On Monday, President Medvedev delivered a stinging criticism of Russia’s sporting authorities.

"Those responsible for the preparations for the Olympics should bear responsibility now as well. This is obvious," the Russian president said. "I think that those who are responsible, or at least some of them who were responsible for this preparation, should make the courageous decision and tender their resignations. If they don't show such resolve, we will help them."

Vitaly Mutko said he is ready to resign if the move could change anything.

"I will resign quietly, if specifically my resignation is the issue, although I don't know whether sport will gain anything from that," Mutko told reporters at Sheremetyevo airport. "If I am the problem, I know what I must do and how. But it is neither one particular person, nor other people, that are to blame."

Mutko then explained that Russia only excels in less than half of the Olympic disciplines.

“There are 15 disciplines at the Olympics and unfortunately our team is competitive in just six of them,” Mutko explained. “In the other disciplines we are not competitive. This was the toughest Olympics for decades.”

The Sports Minister then reached for some gold dust by suggesting Vancouver was not a total failure.

“We should all understand that it's our result for the moment, but that's not a failure. We had the best athletes from around the country. And of course we have a lot to change and to improve, and first of all the way sport is managed,” he added.

Ivan Skobrev, Russia’s medal-winning speed skater, expressed his dissatisfaction with Russia’s results, but said the Russian athletes are determined to do much better in Sochi.

“We all are really disappointed about our hockey team and that we didn't win all the medals we had expected,” Skobrev said. “Frankly we worked hard and did our best – and I saw the disappointment of our athletes, who failed to win. And we want to say sorry for that. The next Winter Games are in Sochi so we will work even harder and try to improve our medal rankings,” he pledged.

Despite the dismal results, Russia’s Olympic athletes were warmly greeted by a large group of supportive fans, friends and family following their arrival at Sheremetyevo Airport on Tuesday in Moscow.