After a year of big events and big investments, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has declared that the country "made a splash" in 2012, and will soon be a center for world sports.
In his annual New Year's meeting with reporters, Mutko expressed satisfaction with Russian sports in the year 2012.
Mutko hailed the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, world championship games in athletics and rugby, the prospect of Formula One and the football World Cup.
"From 2013 to 2018, Russia will be the center of world sport. And, when the next World Cup has finished in Brazil, all eyes will be on Russia," he said.
The city of Kazan – home of two-time Russian football champions Rubin – has built a new airport and road system in anticipation of next summer's World Student Games, as well as the coming World Cup matches.
In the last six years, more than 1,100 sports facilities were built across Russia; next year, the country aims to open training centers for all 53 Olympic sports.
“By 2015, there will no longer be any problems preparing the national teams – even for new winter disciplines like freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and Nordic combined,” Mutko said. “Before, they had no training centers and, if we add to the legacy we hope to establish after the Olympics and Student Games, the basis for high performance sport will be at the highest level."
Two key areas Mutko cited are youth development – with three-and-a-half million children currently studying in sports schools – and the Olympics, with Russia preparing to host the Sochi Winter Games by building a bobsleigh track and all-weather biathlon tube.
Sochi's new Iceberg Skating Palace could also be converted into a cycling track as Russia aims to further invest in swimming, rowing, shooting and sailing.
Russia proved its traditional strength in summer sports, finishing fourth overall at the 2012 London Olympics and second in the Paralympics. "If we take our results in London – the Olympic and Paralympic Games – we're one of the leaders,” Mutko said. “We made a splash there. And this is not just me talking, the world sports community says it, too. In London, the Russian national anthem didn't stop."
Recent opinion polls show that 70 percent of Russians are satisfied with the performance of their national teams in major sports competitions.