MOSCOW, February 27, (ITAR-TASS). The Russian medalists of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, held February 7-23, were awarded with Mercedes-Benz SUVs on Thursday in a solemn ceremony on Vasilyevsky Spusk (St. Basil’s Slope) in the heart of Moscow by the Kremlin walls.
Russia took the first place in the 2014 Winter Olympics’ medal standings. Team Russia finished the Sochi Games with the overall result of 33 won medals (13 gold, 11 silver and 9 bronze medals) surpassing its previous Winter Olympics record of 11 gold medals, set at the 1994 Winter Games in Norway’s Lillehammer.
Thus, the Russian athletes showed a better result this time than the Soviet Union achieved at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Games (13+6+8) due to a higher number of silver medals. The Russian athletes also gained more awards than the record 29 medals the Soviet team won at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took part in Thursday’s awarding ceremony.
“It is a prize that I think can’t be unnecessary,” Medvedev said addressing athletes of the Russian national Olympic team prior to giving them the keys from their new vehicles.
The premier also said Russia’s recent history had not had a similar event that would “consolidate the nation and unite the people so much.”
Medvedev thanked Team Russia for their performance.
“Any person has a certain number of such moments when they feel proud for their country. You presented this feeling of pride to us, and did so in a period when our country was hosting the Olympics. It is worth very much,” he said.
The prime minister said he believed most Russians had hoped for Russian Olympians’ victories but no one had expected such a triumph. “You are our heroes. Well done!” he said.
Team Russia became the fourth team that won Winter Olympics held at home.
Earlier, the United States won the 1932 Lake Placid Games (12 medals, including 6 golds, 4 silvers and 2 bronzes), Norway won the 1952 Oslo Games (16 medals, including 7 golds, 3 silvers and 6 bronzes), and Canada won the 2010 Vancouver Games (26 medals, including 14 golds, 7 silvers and 5 bronzes).
The 2014 Sochi Games were also the first Winter Olympics since 1952 when the Games’ hosting country won the highest overall number of awards as well as the biggest number of gold medals.
Medvedev said the system of support for Russian athletes was not ideal, but better in terms of quality than before.
As an example, Medvedev cited the Russian Olympians Foundation, which, he said, had made it possible to consolidate, with the help of sponsors, nearly 1 billion rubles ($28 million at current rates) over the nine years of its existence, which was used to make payments to athletes, coaches and experts.
The medalists of the Olympic Games were given Mercedes GL SUVs for gold medals, Mercedes MLs for silvers and GLKs for bronze medals. All vehicles were displayed down Vasilyevsky Spusk from the pavilion that hosted the awarding ceremony, when the athletes were given the keys and documents for the vehicles.
Last year, the Olympians Foundation decided that the athletes would also receive monetary remunerations for the medals they would gain.
The Mercedes SUVs were prepared by the Russian Olympians Foundation, whose board of trustees Medvedev chairs. The vehicles contain symbols of Team Russia and the foundation. Their numberplates contain the athletes’ names.
Drivers were ready to take athletes where they would tell them, but some athletes said they would drive their new cars themselves.
Forty-four vehicles were awaiting their new owners on Vasilyevsky Spusk, because each medalist was in for a prize, regardless of whether their medals had been won in individual events or in team or relay events. Some athletes were unable to come to get their prizes and will receive them later.