The Kremlin, Moscow
Send-off ceremony for Russia's team competing in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games was held in the Alexander Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace.
The Olympic Games will take place from July 27 to August 12 in London. Russia's team will compete in 34 of the 37 Summer Olympic sports.
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PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon dear friends,
There are only a few days left before the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. And in the near future an entirely different lifestyle for all international and Russian sports fans will begin. I am very pleased to meet with our national team prior to the Games and to be able to wish you every success.
You have accomplished a lot to become members of Russia's Olympic team. I must say and you know this better than anyone else that the fact that you are on the team already represents a great victory; you have already achieved a lot. But you have the chance to take one further step and to go for gold at this Olympics. This is what every athlete strives for. Hundreds of thousands of people in the stands, and millions in front of their television sets will be watching your performance, as will, without any undue exaggeration, the millions of sports fans in our country. And we'll all be expecting you to win, and to produce results.
Our athletes rightly hold many records. You know that we began participating in the Olympic Games in 1952 in Helsinki. And today we have here a person who performed at those Games and gave our team its first gold medal: Nina Ponomareva. Welcome.
Ms Ponomareva not only set a new Olympic record but, more importantly and more interestingly, eight years later in Rome she broke her own record and won again.
I am very pleased to welcome her here today to this hall in the Kremlin among our other Olympians. And I want to thank you for your past successes and victories, for being here today among us, and for acting as an example for a new generation of Russian Olympians. Thank you very much.
I am sure that our Olympic team and each of you individually is shouldering a lot of responsibilities. I hope that thanks to your victories the flag of the Russian Federation will be raised as often as possible in London's Olympic stadiums and that our national anthem will be heard there just as often. I hope that you believe in yourselves just as millions of Russian fans believe in you.
Sports, especially high-level ones, are a lot of work, toil, discipline, and of course luck too, but most of all they require the belief in yourself and the ability to overcome one's self. You have already proven many times that you can do this. Show us how you can do it again at the most important sports competitions, the Olympic Games. I wish you every success.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Dear friends, once again I would like to wish you every success.
There are 436 people on our team representing 34 different types of sports. There are more women than men here, but I'm sure that the men will prove themselves. We love you very much and will cheer hard for you.
The youngest member of our team is 15 and a half years old and the eldest is 51 (a jockey). Can you feel a difference? Anyone can win and everyone of you can win.
The Olympic Games is a special kind of competition. Of course, first and foremost results depend on skills, perseverance, training and preparation, but much depends on personal character and experience. You have absolutely everything. I wish you good luck!
From millions in local currency to brand-new cars, some athletes stand to cash in on Olympic gold -- and even silver and bronze.
Since 1992, when amateur status was abandoned as a requirement in most Olympic sports, athletes have been allowed to accept cash awards from their governments, national Olympic committees, or private foundations that are their partners.
Thanks to that decision, a Georgian athlete stands to win $1.2 million for bringing home gold from London. Gold medalists from Tajikistan have been promised luxury cars. In a handful of countries, medalists will vie for the chance to win keys to a new apartment.
The cash bonuses vary widely from country to country, with some countries offering little more than the uniforms on their athletes' backs and others providing windfalls that can surpass average salaries many times over.
Azerbaijan is offering $510,000 to each of its gold medalists. Kazakhstan has promised $250,000 to each of its Olympic winners.
Such handouts are not just huge by local standards, they compare favorably to wealthier Western countries like the United States, which is offering $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.
Russia's government is offering about $125,000 to each gold medalist. But the regional government of Chelyabinsk Oblast says it will pay $1 million to any local athlete who brings home a gold medal. St. Petersburg officials promise their athletes about $33,000 for winning gold in London.
In Iran, the government is offering an $85,000 payment in gold coins to gold medalists. All Iranian medalists have also been promised a full government salary for the rest of their lives.
Some Iranian officials and organizations are offering cars, apartments, land, and extra gold coins to medalists.
Even Central Asia's most impoverished state is getting in on the action. Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon says his government will pay $63,000 to each Tajik gold medalist.
In addition, the mayor of Dushanbe is offering a one-bedroom apartment in the city to each gold medalist, along with additional cash awards for silver and bronze winners.
Tajikistan's largest private bank, Oriyonbonk -- which is owned by a relative of Rahmon -- made the promise of a luxury car to each gold medalist.
The opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, meanwhile, is offering all Tajik medalists a one-bedroom apartment in Dushanbe -- valued at between $30,000 and $80,000.
To the north in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, athletes will get $200,000 for gold, and Bishkek has announced a lifetime monthly stipend of $500 for all Kyrgyz medalists.
Turkmenistan, the only former Soviet republic that has not won an Olympic medal since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has not yet announced awards for 2012.
Belarus, whose president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, expects the country's athletes to come home with 25 medals, "five of them gold," will be paying $150,000 to those who reach the highest step on the winners' podium. In 2008, gold-medal winners were also given Minsk apartments. But no such promises have been made in 2012.
As for the hosts of the games, things don't look nearly so lucrative. That's because Great Britain is not offering any bonus awards -- although some British gold medalists could be paid $15,000 in royalties in exchange for allowing their image to be depicted on a postage stamp.
Article (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036; article also appeared at www.rferl.org/content/olympic-medalists-set-to-cash-in-at-london-2012/24653095.html