Reuters

Olympics-New Russian president wants drastic changes

Thu, 20 May 20:11:00 2010

* Kremlin-backed Zhukov elected Russian Olympic head

* Promises drastic changes and war on drugs (Adds Medvedev quotes)

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov promised drastic changes in the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) after being elected as president on Thursday.

He succeeds Leonid Tyagachyov, who resigned as ROC chief on March 3, two days after President Dmitry Medvedev ordered top sports officials to quit or be fired following the country's worst ever showing at February's Vancouver Winter Olympics.

"Today, we're opening a new page in the history of our country's sport and the Olympic Movement in Russia," Zhukov, a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, told ROC members after receiving 204 out of 209 votes.

Zhukov, who turns 54 next month, has been in charge of preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and also headed the Russian Chess Federation between 2003-09.

He was the only candidate for the post after being nominated last month following a high-level meeting in the Kremlin.

Putin congratulated Zhukov on his election.

"Let's wish him success and productive work," Putin told a meeting of government officials on Thursday.

MEDVEDEV MEETING

"My first task is to create a team of like-minded people to lead the ROC as we have to improve a lot of things here," Zhukov said, naming better financing and fighting drugs among the main items that needed examination.

He also appointed Marat Bariyev as ROC's executive director.

Later in the day Zhukov had a meeting with President Medvedev in the Kremlin to discuss Russia's preparations for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2014 Sochi Games.

"There are many tasks ahead, and you know them. We need to make our sport modern, competitive and attractive," Medvedev was quoted as telling Zhukov by Kremlin officials.

"There's a need to restructure the way the Olympic commitee works, to bring in real professionals, modern-day managers instead of the old sports bureaucrats."

Russia is eager to reclaim its status as a winter sports superpower after winning only three gold medals in Vancouver.

The day after the Games ended, Medvedev ordered top Olympic officials and federation heads, he called "fat cats", to resign.

"Those responsible should take the brave decision and resign. If they can't we will help them," he said then.

(Editing by John Mehaffey; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

 

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