When we first began working on this Olympic issue of PASSPORT, we took a trip to the Russian Olympic training center in Podolsk, an hour’s drive from Moscow. There, we asked some of the veteran Olympic athletes on hand about the history of the training center and the state of sport in Russia. We were happily surprised by their replies: they said that conditions at the Podolsk training center - and indeed, at state-funded facilities for elite athletes across the country - have improved markedly in the last few years, and that this trend is likely to continue. After a decade and a half of funding cuts, lackluster showings at the Olympics and other international competitions, purported corruption, and declining morale, sport in Russia finally seems to be getting back on track.
The Olympians we interviewed told us they hoped that Russian athletes like swimmer Alexander Popov and tennis star Maria Sharapova would soon return from their European and American training grounds to live and train at home. They said that they hoped Russian schoolchildren would begin exercising again as they did at the apex of Soviet sport. And, perhaps most importantly, they hope Russia can fight its way back to the days when its Olympic medal counts were on a par with those of the United States and other athletic powerhouses.
In this issue, we take a look at the rebirth of Russian sport. We profile five Russian athletes going for gold in Athens, and take a look back at the 1980 Games which were held in Moscow at the height of the Cold War. Rounding things out, we also include an insider look on the Russian beer market and a profile of one of Moscow’s most beautiful neighborhoods - Frunzenskaya - and the surrounding Khamovniki region. We hope you enjoy it, and that you all have a great summer. See you again in September.
J. Quinn Martin