Voices from Russia

Saturday, 21 June 2008

21 June 2008. A Day at the Races…

Filed under: China,Olympics,Russian,sport — 01varvara @ 00.00

IGF to make public its decision in trumped-up case against Irina Viner

Irina Viner (1948- ), legendary Russian gymnastics coach

The Disciplinary Commission of the International Gymnastics Federation in Lausanne shall announce today its decision in the case of Russian rhythmic coach Irina Viner, two months after the IGF sanctioned her Ukrainian rival, Irina Deryugina. Coach Viner, one of the most famous women in Russian sport, is facing charges of abusively criticising the IGF’s dated charter and the decisions taken by the Federation. Coach Viner is also accused of aggressive behaviour in her dealings with athletes, a charge she flatly denies. If the Disciplinary Committee upholds the charges, Coach Viner may be disqualified and barred from participation in this summer’s Olympics in Beijing. Many experts suspect the crackdown on Coaches Viner and Deryugina could be an attempt to undermine the Olympic chances of the world’s two leading gymnastic powers, Russia and the Ukraine.

17 June 2008


IOC experts arrive in Russia

Airport in Sochi

A team of IOC experts arrived in Russia to check out the construction timetable for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. They will meet with the chief executives of the Olympstroy Company handling the Olympic construction work, a subsidiary of the Russian Railways Company, and will visit the sites of would-be sports facilities in Sochi.

17 June 2008


Russia beats Sweden 2:0 in Euro 2008 match

Russia beat Sweden 2:0 in a Group D match of Euro 2008 on Wednesday evening in Innsbruck and thus advanced to the quarter-finals. The team will be facing the Netherlands on 21 June in Basel, Switzerland. The match will be a kind of a repeat of the 1988 final when the Soviets also faced Holland. Sportswriters said yesterday it was probably the most impressive Russian performance of Euro 2008. Thousands of fans across Russia celebrated the victory tonight. President Dmitri Medvedev congratulated the team and the fans on the results.

19 June 2008


Thousands of Muscovites celebrate Russian victory in Group D of Euro 2008

Thousands of Muscovites are celebrating the Russian victory in a Group D match of Euro 2008 against Sweden. It is the first time that the Russian team advanced to the quarter-finals of the Euro Championship after the collapse of the USSR. Russia advanced after defeating the Swedish side 2:0. On 21 June, Russia will face the Netherlands in Basel.

19 June 2008


Russia will face off with the formidable Dutch tonight in the Euro 2008 quarter-finals

Guus Hiddink (1948- ), Dutch coach of Team Russia

Russia will face off with the formidable Dutch side tonight in the Euro 2008 quarter-finals after beating Sweden 2-0 in a Group D match played in Innsbruck. Team Russia’s Dutch coach Guus Hiddink said on Friday he was ready to forget his own country’s interests to ensure the Russian team’s win in the quarter-finals.

21 June 2008


Olympic torch wound Saturday through the streets of the Tibetan capital of Lhasa

In China, the Olympic torch wound Saturday through the streets of the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Organisers earlier said that the Tibetan leg, originally set for three days, would be cut to one day to make way for a switch in the visit to Sichuan province, the centre of a 12 May earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 people.

21 June 2008


Voice of Russia World Service

Russian ‘political clown’ wants to fire up side at Euro 2008

Vladimir “Mad Vlad” Zhirinovsky (1946- ), Russian politician, deputy speaker of the RF Gosduma. The poster reads “Don’t Lie and Don’t be Afraid”.

A Russian ultra-nationalist politician notorious for, among other things, brawls with fellow MPs, asked the country’s soccer chief for a chance to fire up the national team ahead of their vital Euro 2008 match on Wednesday. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the current vice-speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, caused international alarm when his Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) came first in Russia’s 1993 parliamentary elections on the back of a confrontational and fiercely nationalist campaign. Although his party’s share of the votes has gone down since then, it is still the third largest in the State Duma. Mr Zhirinovsky has, in his time, threatened to seize Alaska from the United States, launch a nuclear strike on Japan, and destroy the Baltic states. Many political and social experts have suggested that Mr Zhirinovsky represents and gives vent to the darker side of the Russian character, providing at times a vital outlet for frustrations and prejudices. General Aleksandr Lebed, the man credited with ending the first Chechen War, once famously described Zhirinovsky as “God’s holy monkey”.

“The team needs a special psychological boost, a powerful emotional charge that will ensure their desire for victory”, the LDPR press office quoted Mr Zhirinovsky as saying on Tuesday. “That is why I am asking Vitaly Mutko,  the Minister for Sport and the President of the Russian Football Union, to give me the opportunity to meet with our team and have a talk with the guys before they take the field in Innsbruck”, Mr Zhirinovsky went on. Russia, after losing their first game at Euro 2008 4-1 to Spain, beat Greece 1-0 on Saturday. Nothing less than victory over Sweden on 18 June will see them into the play-off stages of the competition for the first time since the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The Russian Football Union has yet to comment on Mr Zhirinovsky’s offer to give a pep talk.

17 June 2008


All or nothing for Russia against Sweden at Euro 2008

Guus Hiddink (1948- ), Dutch coach of Team Russia

Russia takes the field in their final Group D match on Wednesday evening knowing that anything less than victory against a strong Swedish side will see them fail, yet again, to reach the play-offs of a major European tournament. The team, led by experienced Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, qualified for Euro 2008 after a rollercoaster qualifying campaign that saw a memorable home victory against England.

Coach Hiddink’s men arrived at their Austrian base of Leogang a week before the competition kicked off on the back of three consecutive friendly victories, their preparations spoiled only by an injury to star striker Pavel Pogrebnyak. Pogrebnyak’s injury eventually forced him to quit the side’s training camp, and Russia, already weakened by playmaker Andrey Arshavin’s two-match suspension, were outclassed by Spain in their opening match, going down 4-1. However, despite the defeat and a performance that Coach Hiddink called “defensively naïve”, Russia at least tried to play an attacking, open game, a marked difference from their ultra-cautious tactics at previous World Cups and European Championships.

Coach Hiddink drafted in experienced CSKA defender Sergei Ignashevich, surprisingly left out of the opening fixture, for the next game, against holders Greece, and the side battled to a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a Konstantin Zyrianov goal in the 33rd minute. Sweden, meanwhile, having earlier beaten the Greeks 2-0, lost to Spain after an injury time goal from David Villa. Both Sweden and Russia are on three points, but, Sweden is ahead thanks to superior goal difference.

“We’re happy to have the opportunity to play this decisive game, especially when you see that other teams have gone home already. I’d have preferred the option to go for a draw, but, it’s OK”, Coach Hiddink told the press on Tuesday. Russia will be boosted by the return of Arshavin on Wednesday, although Coach Hiddink has hinted that the FC Zenit St Petersburg star may start the game on the bench. “His presence will definitely lift the team, he’s a quality player. It is hard to say what changes the coach will make though”, Roman Pavlyuchenko, man-of-the-match against Greece, told a press conference.

The Russian press was full of advice for the national team on Wednesday morning, Sovetski Sport featuring interviews with the country’s top ice-hockey players, who recently defeated Sweden at the World Championships in Canada, on “how to beat the Swedes”. There were also calls for the Russian players to recall the early 18th century Battle of Poltava where Russian forces defeated Sweden. The victory is widely considered to have marked the ascent of Imperial Russia. Coach Hiddink, however, in an interview with the Russian press, confessed that he knew nothing of the battle.

Whoever eventually makes it through to the quarter-finals will face Coach Hiddink’s native Holland. The in-form Dutch coasted through their group games, defeating Italy 3-0, France 4-1, and Romania 2-0. “The Russian vs Sweden game will be like a battle of masochists for the whip”, a Russian fan commented on an Internet forum on Wednesday. Russian ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky has offered to give the team a pep talk before the game, saying that, “The guys need a special psychological boost, a powerful emotional charge that will ensure their desire for victory”. Russia’s soccer chief has yet to comment on his proposal.

The match kicks off at 20.45 local time (22.45 Moscow time (14.45 EDT)) It will be shown live on the national Rossiya channel. Although Russia has never defeated Sweden, losing three times and drawing twice, both Russian and international bookmakers make Coach Hiddink’s side slight favourites to win the decisive tie. If they do so, it will be the first time Russia has made it out of their group at a major tournament since the break up of the Soviet Union.

18 June 2008


Russian ice-hockey star Igor Larionov to enter NHL Hall of Fame

Igor Larionov (1960- ), Russian NHL ice hockey star

Russian ice-hockey star Igor Larionov has been selected for inclusion in the NHL hall of fame, the league’s website said on Wednesday. “This is very exciting news, I can’t really put into words or describe what this honour means to me”, the website quoted Larionov, who retired in 2004, as saying. The 47-year-old Russian, nicknamed “the Professor”, is a two-time Olympic Champion, six-time World Champion, and three-time winner of the Stanley Cup. “So many great players from the 1900s to the current day are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. This truly is a great honour”, he said. Larionov will be the fifth Russian to be included in the NHL Hall of Fame after Anatoly Tarasov, Vladislav Tretyak, Vyacheslav Fetisov, and Valery Kharlamov. The official 2008 Induction Celebration is scheduled for 10 November and will be held at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada.

18 June 2008


Russia beat Sweden 2-0

Russia gave a dazzling display against Sweden in Innsbruck Wednesday night, winning 2-0 to secure a place in the last eight of the European soccer championships. With Andrei Arshavin, who was playing for the first time in the tournament after a two-game suspension and Roman Pavlyuchenko both scoring, Russia gave their best performance of the championship to set up a quarterfinal match with the Netherlands in Basel on 21 June. The Dutch coach of Team Russia, Guus Hiddink said after the match that he was proud of the Russian team. “I am proud of them. If you saw the performance tonight and how they tried to get the first goal as soon as possible, it was incredible. The only criticism… is that we didn’t score enough”. Coach Hiddink said he was looking forward to Saturday’s match against the Netherlands and said it would be “a special one because I know the players and their coach”.

19 June 2008


Russian President, press, and players hail progress at Euro 2008

Russia’s 2-0 victory over Sweden on Wednesday night at Euro 2008 has been praised by the country’s president, media, and players as a gigantic step forward in the development of the national game. It was the 19th century writer, Nikolai Gogol who said that Russia’s two greatest misfortunes were its roads and its fools, to which the Russian people, with equal measures of irony and spite, added soccer in the late 20th century. However, after Wednesday’s win ensured that Russia would make it out of the group stage at a major tournament for the first time since the collapse of the USSR, that list may have just got shorter.

“It was a good achievement”, said Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, a long-time FC Zenit St Petersburg fan. “We are going further!” screamed the headlines on the newspaper Sovetski Sport. “We can take on any side as equals”, said Russian captain Sergei Semak after the game, adding, “We are afraid of no one!” It was not just the result that impressed; the skill shown by the Russian players in carving out chance after chance was a joy to watch and had pundits all over the world gushing. “They are just fabulous to watch, this Russia side. Are you watching Holland?” wrote the BBC, with ex-Chelsea player Pat Nevin adding, “Russia could have won by six goals tonight and it would have been a fair result. Sweden hasn’t played that badly but they have been beaten by a far, far, better side”.

Since taking over the side in 2006, Dutch trainer Guus Hiddink has worked wonders with the Russian team, ridding it of the ultra-cautious tactics that stifled the potential of earlier squads. As a foreigner, Coach Hiddink has been able to stay out of inter-club squabbles and has shown an enviable courage in refusing to be dictated to by the country’s soccer chiefs. The man Coach Hiddink built his side around, Andrei Arshavin, missed the side’s first two games at Euro 2008 through suspension, but, his return to the side caused panic in the Swedish defence as Russia got the win they needed and deserved. Russia will now face Coach Hiddink’s native Holland in the quarter-finals on Saturday. Whatever happens in that match, the team has made history, and with the 2010 World Cup always Coach Hiddink’s real target, soccer in Russia looks to be making a long awaited comeback.

Viktor Chernomyrdin, the country’s prime minister prior to the 1998 financial crisis that wiped out the life savings of many Russians, once said, “We hoped for the best, but, things turned out like they always do”. The phrase was subsequently adopted by the country’s sportswriters and quoted throughout Russian soccer’s long dark night of the soul. After Wednesday’s display, coupled with FC Zenit St Petersburg’s UEFA Cup victory in May, it could be a long time before the phrase sees the light of day again.

19 June 2008


Commission says Dakar legend Chagin innocent of French racer’s death

Vladimir Chagin of Team Kamaz, five-time winner of the Dakar Rally

A commission set up to investigate the tragic death of a French motorcyclist during the Trans-Oriental Rally event ruled on Thursday that Russia’s Team Kamaz was not to blame for the incident. French motorcyclist Philippe Tonin was killed on Tuesday after his KTM bike was hit by a Kamaz truck, piloted by five-time Dakar Rally Champion Vladimir Chagin of Russia, on the sixth stage of the 17-day rally marathon between Qaratubak and Torgai in Kazakhstan. “The commission reached the verdict that it sees no guilt in the actions of Vladimir Chagin’s crew”, the Kamaz Team website said in a statement.

According to the investigation, Chagin’s Kamaz caught up with the French racer, who ignored signals given by Chagin that he intended to pass him. The track was turning left and the Russian decided to pass the motorcyclist on the right and later return to the track, but, Tonin all of a sudden also veered right. The team also said in a statement that it viewed the death as a tragedy, the first in the team’s 20-year history of participation in various rally events. Chagin and the whole team expressed their condolences to Tonin’s relatives and friends. The Trans-Oriental Rally event began on 12 June in St Petersburg and is scheduled to finish on 28 June in Beijing. In all, 300 racers from 25 countries are taking part in the event.

19 June 2008


Team Kamaz withdraws from Trans-Oriental after French racer’s death

Crews of all three Russian Team Kamaz trucks withdrew on Thursday from the Trans-Oriental Rally event due to the death of a French racer earlier in the week. French motorcyclist Philippe Tonin was killed on Tuesday after his KTM bike was hit by a Kamaz truck, piloted by five-time Dakar Rally Champion Vladimir Chagin of Russia, on the sixth stage of the 17-day rally marathon between Qaratubak and Torgai in Kazakhstan. The team made the decision to withdraw from the race, even though earlier in the day a special commission set up to investigate into the tragic death of Tonin had ruled that Chagin and his crew were not to blame for the incident. “Although he was not blamed, Vladimir Chagin believes that due to ethical reasons he has no right to carry on with the race because, indirectly, he feels a sense of guilt for the death of Tonin”, said Semyon Yakubov, the head of the Kamaz team.

19 June 2008


Russia looks to stun Holland at Euro 2008

The Russian national team play Holland at Euro 2008 on Saturday evening as Guus Hiddink looks to lead Russia to victory against his homeland and a place in the semi-finals. Russia made the quarter-finals after beating Sweden 2-0 on Wednesday, turning in possibly their best performance since the split up of the USSR in the process. The only negative point is that Russia should have scored more.

Holland meanwhile have steamrolled their way to the last eight, beating Italy 3-0, France 4-1, and Romania 2-0 in their group games. While Holland is the firm favourite, many pundits are tipping Russia to pull off an upset. Some 85,000 Dutch fans are expected to attend the match, to be played in the Swiss city of Basel. Around 5,000 Russian fans are expected.

Coach Hiddink revealed that he would sing the words to the Russian anthem before the game, “If I knew the words”. “We have reached our goal, which was not easy, which was to qualify for the quarter-finals”, Coach Hiddink earlier told journalists. “But, we are not satisfied with that, because I want Russian football and the Russian team to make its progress step by step. Now, we are going to look for the next step”, he added. Whatever happens on Saturday evening, Coach Hiddink has restored Russian pride in its national team, for so long the cause of disappointment and shame. The game kicks off at 20.45 local time (22.45 Moscow time (14.45 EDT)). It will be shown live on the First Channel.

21 June 2008


Russia outclasses Holland to make Euro 2008 semis

Russia turned on the style on Saturday night to defeat Holland in extra time and make the semi-finals of Euro 2008. After the first half had ended goalless, Roman Pavlyuchenko got on the end of a clever move involving Sergei Semak and the outstanding Andrei Arshavin to give Russia the lead in the 56th minute. With just four minutes on the clock, Ruud van Nistelrooy headed home from a free-kick to level the score and send the game into extra time.

However, Russia’s Dutch trainer Guus Hiddink, the man who in less than two years has transformed the Russian team into a side that plays modern, attractive soccer, sent his side back out fired up, and in the 112th minute Arshavin again broke down the left to set up a goal for Dmitri Torbinsky. Holland threw men forward, but Russia held firm, and Arshavin broke with minutes remaining to bury the ball in the Dutch net and send his team into the semi-finals.

“We believed in victory and the people believed”, Russia’s goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev said after the game. A tearful Arshavin, choking back emotion, praised Coach Hiddink as a “wise trainer”. It was not only the victory that impressed, against a side which had earlier beaten world champions Italy 3-0 and world vice-champions France 4-1, but, the manner in which Russia defeated the Dutch. “I don’t want to talk big words now”, said Coach Hiddink, “but, I told the players after Holland equalised it that we can do it”. His players proved him right. The beautiful game, so long a source of anguish and shame in modern Russia, is now alive and well in the world’s largest country. As Russia marched into the last four, an achievement unthinkable after the team had lost 4-1 to Spain in their first game just over a week ago, their fans swarmed into the streets to celebrate until dawn.

22 June 2008




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