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Russian Olympic Committee marks centennial

This weekend marks 100 years since the founding of the Russian Olympic Committee. Celebrations occurred throughout the country, but especially in Moscow.

Russia has a long and distinguished Olympic tradition. There have been many ups and downs throughout the past century for athletics in the country.

That the Russian Olympic Committee has been going strong for 100 years is itself perhaps one of the country’s greatest athletic achievements.

Luzhniki Stadium, the main venue for the Moscow Olympics in 1980, was the center of the centennial celebrations.

Russian Olympic champions and athletes turned up, giving everyone a chance to talk to some of the country’s most famous sport stars. And with 35 different activities to participate in, there was something for everyone.

“I think an event such as this one should be held every year, as it is an important occasion for all current, former and future Russian Olympians,” said two-time Olympic swimming champion Denis Pankratov. “And if the population sees its athletes give it their all during the Games, the exposure would increase regardless of the results.”

“I consider this special day to be a personal holiday for me, since I'm an Olympic champion and an employee of the Olympic Committee. Our main goal is to simply expose as many children as possible to athletics for a healthier future generation,” said 12-time Olympic gymnastics medalist Aleksey Nemov.

There is always room for improvement at the governing body of the Russian Olympic movement.But its methods have clearly worked, as over the years it has helped to raise a lot of champions. And once an athlete takes part in the Olympics, they are an Olympian forever.

“Everything I do now is connected with athletics,” explained three-time Olympic synchronized swimming champion Maria Kiseleva. “And that's great. I spent more than 20 years in sports and I don't want to let it go. I feel some responsibility and I have to give something back after many people put a lot of effort into making an Olympic champion out of me.”

Many of the champions from past decades are still aiming for Olympic gold, and with the Sochi Olympics in mind, Russia international hockey player Maxim Afinogenov gave his assessment of the appointment of Zinutula Billyaletdinov as Russia's new head coach.

“He can be the real coach, stepping forward for the team, and can bring medals for Russia,” Afinogenov said.

Russia is set to host a number of significant athletic events in the next couple of years, including the World Student Games in Kazan in 2013, the Winter Sochi Olympics in 2014 and the soccer World Cup in 2018. Along with the celebration of the Russian Olympic Committee’s centennial, the major international events are expected to help spread the popularity of sports among Russian youth.