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With three weeks remaining before the 2014 Winter Olympics kick off in Russia, President Vladimir Putin met on Friday with volunteers, who will be providing assistance during the Games, answered their questions and wished them good luck.
Some 25,000 volunteers will be working during the Olympics in the resort city of Sochi on the Black Sea and their number accounts to one third of the total personnel serving the Games. Volunteers are mostly university students from Russia and 60 more countries and their selection process began last February.
“Volunteers form the atmosphere of the Games,” Putin told them. “The mood of guests and participants of the Olympics will greatly depend on what atmosphere you will create and it is definitely a very important part of our Olympic program.”
He said such task is not as easy as it may seem and wished them to have “patience, professionalism and emotional endurance.”
When asked if he was going to attend Olympic competitions as a spectator, the president said it would all depend on his work schedule and did not know what competitions exactly he would be able to watch.
“I would like to see ice hockey,” he said. “Everyone in our country likes figure skating. I like it too. I also like ski competitions.”
Another volunteer wanted to know how a typical presidential working day looks like and asked Putin if it was possible to spend a day with the president and to personally find out everything. Putin told him that it was possible and said that “we will definitely come up with something.”
A female volunteer from China asked Putin in which Olympic competition he would have competed and succeeded if he participated in the Games. The president said it was difficult to say in which Olympic competition he would have succeeded, adding that it was not a secret that he had practiced in judo all his life.
“If I had such a possibility and reached the required level it would have been to my great pleasure to compete in judo,” he told the volunteer from China.
The 61-year-old president is a black belt holder in judo and he regularly practices. Two years ago the International Judo Federation granted him an eighth Dan for his work to promote this sport. In his youth Putin was judo champion of his home town Leningrad, now called St. Petersburg. In 2008, he starred in the judo video "Let's Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin."
While asking the question, the young Chinese volunteer remarked several times that she still did not believe she shared the same meeting room with the Russian president and talked to him. Putin said in reply that he pinch her later to make sure that she was not dreaming.
The president kept his word and after the meeting was over he pinched the Chinese volunteer in the left arm as he was passing her by.
Sochi was selected to host the Olympics at session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Guatemala in July of 2007. It won the right to host the Games in a tight race with South Korea's Pyeongchang and Austria's Salzburg.
Then-Prime Minister Putin was the driving force behind Russia's successful bid. When Russia was presenting its bid at Guatemala, Putin personally attended the event delivering a speech in English and French, which are the two official languages of the IOC.