Russian Team Scales Back Plans for 2016 Olympics

Sports ministry faces budget cuts

Training camps abroad help Russian athletes acclimatize to conditions like Rio de Janeiro's, but they'll be among the first to suffer from budget cuts. (Wikimedia Commons)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On Friday, Russia’s deputy sports minister Yuri Nagornykh said that athletes on the Russian Olympic team would be operating under a significantly reduced budget, according to USA Today.

Russian athletes had planned to train in Brazil in advance of the games to adjust to the tropical climate, but that has become largely unaffordable, Nagornykh said. The adjustment stands in stark contrast to the country’s investment in Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Games were held, and where spending approached $50 billion, according to the New York Times.

Following international trade sanctions placed in the wake of Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, the ruble has suffered a perilous rate of inflation, losing almost half its value against the U.S. dollar in the past 12 months. The country’s economy may shrink 3.2 percent in the first half of 2015, the Russian central bank said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Nagornykh said restrictions would force officials to make difficult choices when deciding how to distribute funding among various athletes and various sports, predicting that the sports ministry’s tighter belt would “test everyone’s professionalism.”

The good news, Nagornykh said, is that recent investments in sports facilities would help the ministry cut costs without sacrificing performance standards. “Thank God, in the last five to six years, we very seriously updated our arsenal of training bases,” he said.

Nagornykh’s remarks come on the same day that Valentin Balakhnichev, the Russian athletics federation president, said he would submit his resignation at a February board meeting, according to the New York Times. Balakhnichev made the announcement shortly after two of Russia’s most accomplished Olympians were banned from competition. The Russian anti-doping agency has concluded that Tatyana Chernova, a bronze medalist in the heptathlon, and Yulia Zaripova, a gold medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, were guilty of separate doping violations. If the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) reach the same conclusion, Zaripova may be stripped of the medal she won at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

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