Zhukov and Coates put pen to paper at Wednesday's signing ceremony. (ATR)
(ATR) Leaders of the Australian and Russian NOCs tell Around the Rings
their three-year cooperative agreement will improve preparation of their athletes for forthcoming Summer and Winter Games.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed Wednesday in Sydney by Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov and Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates. Australian sports minister Mark Arbib also attended the ceremony.
Under the agreement, the countries will exchange medical and sports personnel and coaches as well as compete in bilateral competitions.
Australia has set its sights firmly on lifting its performance at the Winter Games and, more specifically, in Russia at Sochi 2014.
"Russia is dominant in winter and summer Olympic sport, and our athletes, coaches and sports specialists will learn a great deal from them courtesy of this partnership," says Coates.
“Of course, in the lead up to Sochi, we need our athletes training as much as possible and competing as much as possible over there.”
Australia is also inviting Russia to compete in the highly-regarded Australian Youth Olympic Festival next being held in Sydney in 2013.
"The friendship between our Olympic Committees, our organisations, has a long, distinguished history," says Zhukov, also deputy prime minister of Russia.
“It started back in 1980 when Australia made the decision not to support a boycott of the Moscow Olympics.”
Zhukov and Coates share a celebratory glass of champagne. (ATR)
Zhukov says Russia and Australia have much to share with each other, and the MOU signing was an important development for both NOCs.
Arbib praised the work of both Coates and the AOC.
“Once again, the Australian Olympic Committee has done an outstanding job,” he tells ATR
“By having a relationship with the Russian Olympic Committee it can only help our athletes into the future and promote better ties between both countries.”
Arbib says the agreement also extends to cooperation in tackling issues such as doping and "match-fixing" types of behavior related to sports betting, but he was particularly interested in exchanging ideas on the promotion of sport to youth.
“For any kid who’s interested in sport in this country, the Olympics is
the pinnacle and we must ensure we get them away from the Playstations and TV and out on the playing field,” he says.
“The more Australians we get on the podium, the more Australians that achieve gold in London, the more of our younger generation we’ll see out there playing sport.”
Senator Arbib says the Australian government was committed to supporting Australia’s Olympic and Paralympic teams, announcing earlier this year an additional $4 million in funding for the Green and Gold Project to support elite athletes in the lead-up to London 2012.
He says this follows the announcement last year of $US24.4 million per annum in additional high performance funding for national sporting federations, bringing the government’s total funding
to $US95.5 million in 2011-12.
Coates says high-achieving NOCs are increasingly looking to forge cooperative agreements with other Olympic countries and regional bodies to give their athletes an edge.
Coates says the AOC has actively pursued bilateral agreements with other NOCs, signing a similar MOU with the U.S. in July in addition to existing agreements with Italy, Japan and Britain.
Coates alongside Australian sports minister Mark Arbib. (ATR)
Coates says the MOU with Italy was of particular importance as it's where the AOC’s European Training Center in the northern province of Varese was unveiled in March. The center is a key plank in preparing the Australian Olympic Team for London 2012.
Russia has also been active in seeking out cooperative agreements with other NOCs and Olympic bodies. Australia is just one of the stops during its delegation’s productive southern hemisphere visit.
Zhukov told guests at the Sydney signing ceremony that Russia also had MOUs with both the U.S. and Japan and more recently signed an MOU with the Oceania regional Olympic body ONOC. At the Pan Pacific Games this week in Noumea, New Caledonia, ONOC president Robin Mitchell and Zhukov took part in a signing ceremony.
Zhukov says the Russian delegation will now travel to New Zealand where the Rugby World Cup kicks off Friday. He says that during the visit to Australia’s trans-Tasman neighbor, an MOU will also be signed with the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
With reporting in Sydney by Anthony Stavrinos.
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