MOSCOW, May 13. /TASS/. A nationwide 10-day voluntary testing of physical training norms stipulated by the system of GTO, which is a Russian acronym for Ready for Labor and Defense, will begin on Friday, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Wednesday.
"The unified decade of GTO begins in two days. It will be held between May 15 and 25 and will be dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Victory against the Nazi Germany," Mutko said adding that the aim of the event is to popularize the GTO system in the country.
The Russian sports minister said enormous progress was achieved since the GTO system was revived in the country last year.
"The government will continue providing financial support for the regions introducing the system of GTO," Mutko said. "The support was provided to 12 constituent parts of the Russian Federation in 2014, to 61 this year and will be extended to the rest [of a total of 85 territories] next year."
The top Russian sports official said the ministry was content with the development of physical culture among the Russians as more people get involved in healthy style of life.
"The number of Russians doing physical training on a regular basis has increased by 15 million people since 2008," Mutko said. "I am sure that the GTO system will be further providing for the promotion of the healthy style of life."
"Since the year of 2008 we have also put into operation about 40,000 sports facilities with the overall turnover capacity of seven million people, while the total amount of the operating sports facilities stands at 365,000," he added.
The obligatory physical training norms for the Soviet people were officially well forgotten over two decades ago, but Vladimir Putin revived the old regulations last year by signing a relevant decree.
In the former Soviet Union the GTO was a state-run and government-sponsored system of training and evaluation standards and requirements for the physical development and aptitude of different age groups.
Those tests were not just the backbone of a nation-wide system of physical culture. They pursued the officially proclaimed aim of "all-round physical development of the individual and the strengthening and preservation of people’s health and their aptitude for high labor efficiency and protection of the Motherland."
The original fitness promotion program lasted from 1931 to 1991, the year when the USSR ceased to exist. It encompassed almost the whole population, from the age of ten to sixty. Those participating in the program were invited to do a variety of tests, such as jogging, push-ups, throwing of dummy grenades, jumps, cross-country skiing, swimming, pull-ups, rope climbing, medicine ball shot-put, and hiking in the countryside.
The people who volunteered to test their physical skills were awarded either gold or silver GTO badges depending on performance. Those who succeeded in passing GTO tests for several years in a row were decorated with the GTO Badge of Honor.
In line with Putin’s last year decree, the revised and upgraded GTO program envisages sports tests to be taken by eleven age groups starting from the age of six.
Putin first mentioned the idea of restoring the GTO system back in March 2013. He described it as "a working mechanism and a positive experience." He was certain that an upgraded format of this program would yield great benefits.
Starting this year the government is obliged to present an annual report regarding the physical fitness of the population. The testing of applicants for GTO badges is purely voluntary.
The 62-year-old Russian president, known for his avid support of sports development in Russia, is a black belt holder in judo and he regularly practices.
Three 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 city Leningrad, now called St. Petersburg. In 2008, he starred in the judo video "Let's Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin."
In his bid to bring to Russia FIA Formula One automobile competition, also known as the Royal Racing, Putin gunned down a F1 bolide on a race track outside Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg in 2010.
In what can be called the ‘fastest president in the world,’ he reached a speed of 240 kmph (150 mph). His racing lap added to his previous motorized stunts, which included piloting fighter jets and strategic bombers as well as riding Harley Davidson motorcycles with Russian bikers.