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更新时间:2014-2-7 11:34:34 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

In Sochi Olympics, Russia Tries to Recapture Soviet-Era Glory

Russia has spent billions on new training grounds, expanded the number of Olympic disciplines it competes in and attracted foreign coaches and even foreign-born athletes to restore a national sports machine decimated by the Soviet collapse.

But the next two weeks in Sochi may show whether it's possible for Russia to re-create the Soviet Union's athletic prowess -- or whether that success resulted from a unique set of circumstances that vanished with the end of the Cold War.

Many outside observers draw similarities between sport in the Soviet era and Vladimir Putin's push to rebuild Russian pride via the first Winter Olympics the country has ever hosted. But longtime experts in Russian sport are more likely to point to the differences: Where Soviet athletes were once groomed to win for their country and had no other path to success, Russians are now free to travel the world, and athletes can play for foreign leagues. Sports, which through broadcasts once opened a rare window onto the Western world, has taken on a more quotidian role in modern-day Russia.

And while success in these Olympics can go a long way to helping a Russian athlete's political or business aspirations, the consequences of losing aren't as great as they were in the Soviet era. 'They used to be serious when they hauled people on the carpet,' says Mikhail Shlayen, a veteran Soviet and Russian sports journalist. 'They don't haul people on the carpet anymore like they used to.'

A top Russian sports official said recently the country had hopes of medaling in 11 of the 15 disciplines, up from seven sports in Vancouver in 2010, when Russia's three gold medals marked its worst performance in the Winter Olympics. Many will be watching Evgeni Plushchenko, the fiery figure-skating star who won Russia's only slot in the men's individual program despite recent injuries and an uneven string of performances. Russians will also follow biathlon closely, an increasingly popular sport in the country, but one hit in recent days by a top Russian biathlete leaving the team after a failed doping test.

The biggest focus, though, will be on men's hockey, where the Soviets dominated international competitions for decades with teams that mostly played together year-round. For this year's Olympic team, stars who play in North America such as Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin will join forces with nine players from the Russian league. The Russian squad has the potential to put up the most fearsome offense in the tournament -- or struggle if the players from the two leagues can't gel.

'Everyone knows perfectly well that the medal in hockey is the most valuable one,' said Dmitry Efimov, who heads Russia's junior hockey league. 'That feeling is especially strong after the defeat in Vancouver four years ago' -- an excruciating 7-3 quarterfinal loss to Canada in the 2010 Games.

Russia's catastrophic performance in Vancouver outraged the nation's fans. And Russian officials, four years away from hosting the Sochi games, suddenly saw that a poor performance on home soil could mean the Olympics would damage Russia's image rather than burnish it.

The Kremlin first pushed to build up a competitive sports machine under Joseph Stalin, who devoted vast resources to developing world-class athletes and elite coaches as part of the Cold War soft-power battle with the U.S. The Soviet Union began taking part in the Winter Olympics in 1956 and immediately shot to the top of the medal tables. The Soviet men's hockey team won the gold medal in every Olympics it participated in, with the exception of the two times it lost to the U.S. Figure skater Irina Rodnina won three consecutive Olympic gold medals from 1972 to 1980, crying on the podium the third time as the Soviet national anthem played -- an image cemented in Russian sports history.

But the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 devastated sports. The newly independent Russia descended into financial turmoil during a harrowing transition to capitalism, prompting some of the best coaches and competitors to move abroad. Even Rodnina moved to the U.S. to become a coach. With a government that had nearly no money to invest in sports programs and facilities, the well-oiled Soviet system of churning out athletes deteriorated.

Still, for years after the fall of the USSR, Russia managed to bring home medals in the Winter Olympics, banking on the successes of competitors who had come up through the Soviet system. By the time the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver arrived, however, so too had a new generation of Russian athletes. They had grown up in the tumultuous 1990s and found themselves far less equipped to win.

Now, with Sochi as an impetus, Russian leaders are at the end of a new turnaround effort. The first step was a cash infusion. Three years ago, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would devote more than 6 billion rubles ($172 million) to preparation for its Olympic team ahead of Sochi, nearly double what it spent leading up to Vancouver.

The country's tycoons and companies have joined the project. In addition to building Sochi's biathlon and cross-country racing facilities, state energy giant Gazprom has funded much of the Russian Olympic Committee's budget for preparing the national team, committee head Alexander Zhukov told the newspaper Sovetsky Sport last year.

Metals tycoon and Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has adopted the Russian Biathlon Union. Russian oil giant Lukoil funds the Russian Cross-Country Skiing Federation, while the state oil-pipeline giant Transneft backs the Russian Bobsleigh Federation.

One of the Russian team's strategies for success in Sochi is increased participation, which is supposed to increase the likelihood of a substantial medal haul. The Russian team has some 225 members, about 50 more than it did in Vancouver.

After years of relying on home-grown Soviet-era coaching talent, and even exporting it abroad after the USSR's collapse, Russia imported foreign coaches. The bobsled team recruited Canadian coach Pierre Lueders; the luge team brought in Italian coach Walter Plaikner; and the curling team recruited Swiss champion Thomas Lips. In all, some 92 foreigners worked on the national team as of last year, Mr. Zhukov told Sovetsky Sport.

Russia is even fielding foreign-born athletes. In late 2011, Russian officials offered citizenship to three-time Korean short-track gold medallist Victor Ahn, who has helped make a name for Russia in a sport that didn't exist in Soviet-era Olympics and therefore received scant state support.

And Ukrainian-born figure skater Tatiana Volosozhar, who received Russian citizenship in 2010, is favored to win a medal in pairs skating with partner Maxim Trankov.



许多外部观察人士都拿苏联时代的体育成就来和普京(Vladimir Putin)通过主办首届冬奥会重振俄罗斯雄风相提并论。但长期研究俄罗斯体坛的专家们可能会指出二者之间的区别:当时的苏联运动员接受了大量培训,一心一意为俄罗斯取胜,况且他们除此之外也没有别的成功途径,而今日的俄罗斯人可以自由出国旅行,运动员也可以为其他国家的运动队效力。当年的电视转播一度向西方世界打开了一扇珍贵的窗口,但如今体育已经成为现代俄罗斯日常生活中很平常的一部分。

而且,在奥运上取得成功对于俄罗斯运动员实现政治或商业抱负固然大有裨益,但和苏联时代相比,输掉比赛的后果已经没有那么严重了。在苏联和俄罗斯时代均在从事体育报道的资深记者Mikhail Shlayen表示,他们以前会厉声训斥运动员,但现在已经不像过去那样了。

一位俄罗斯高级体育官员近期表示,俄罗斯寄望于在15个比赛大项中的11项夺取奖牌,高于2010年温哥华冬奥会的七大项。届时许多人都会观看俄罗斯花样滑冰明星运动员叶甫根尼•普鲁申科(Evgeni Plushchenko)的比赛。尽管近期频频受伤而且成绩不太稳定,但普鲁申科是俄罗斯唯一一位曾在男子单人项目夺冠的运动员。此外,由于冬季两项(按:越野滑雪和步枪射击的混合项目)在俄罗斯日益盛行,俄罗斯人还会密切关注这项比赛。但近日一名俄罗斯顶级滑雪射击运动员在药检不合格后离队给俄罗斯队造成了一定的冲击。

不过,最受瞩目的还属男子冰球项目,当时苏联曾连续数十年在国际赛事中称霸,球队基本上全年都在比赛。在今年的冬奥会上,为北美球队效力的亚历山大•奥韦奇金(Alexander Ovechkin)和迈尔金(Evgeni Malkin)将和俄罗斯队的九名队员并肩作战。俄罗斯队有望在比赛上展现出最强劲的攻势,不过如果来自两个球队的球员配合不好,俄罗斯队也会打得很吃力。

俄罗斯青少年冰球联盟的负责人叶菲莫夫(Dmitry Efimov)表示,所有人都知道冰球的奖牌是最有价值的,继四年前俄罗斯队在温哥华冬奥会四分之一决赛上3比7败给加拿大队之后,俄罗斯人对于冰球金牌的渴望更强烈了。


斯大林(Joseph Stalin)主政期间正值冷战,当时他曾调动大量资源培养世界级的运动员和顶级教练,以和美国比拼软实力。苏联于1956年开始参加冬奥会并立刻跻身金牌榜前列,男子冰球队在其参加的每场奥运会比赛中都获得了金牌,只有两次例外,当时是败给了美国。花样滑冰运动员罗德尼娜(Irina Rodnina)从1972年至1980年连续三届蝉联奥运会冠军,在她第三次登上领奖台时,苏联国歌的响起让她留下了眼泪——现在这一瞬间已经凝结在了俄罗斯体育史上。



现在,以索契冬奥会为动力,俄罗斯领导人正在为扭转局面而投入新的努力。首先是资金投入。三年前,普京(Vladimir Putin)宣布俄罗斯将为参加索契冬奥会的代表团备战投入60多亿卢布(约合1.72亿美元),几乎是温哥华冬奥会前投入的两倍。

俄罗斯的富豪和企业也都参与其中。俄罗斯奥委会(Russian Olympic Committee)的负责人茹科夫(Alexander Zhukov)去年对《俄罗斯体育日报》(Sovetsky Sport)称,除修建索契的冬季两项和越野滑雪比赛设施外,俄罗斯天然气工业股份公司(Gazprom)承担了一大部分俄罗斯奥委会组建国家队所需的资金。

金属大亨、布鲁克林篮网队(Brooklyn Nets)的所有人普罗霍罗夫(Mikhail Prokhorov)资助了俄罗斯冬季两项联盟(Russian Biathlon Union)。俄罗斯石油巨头卢克石油公司(Lukoil)资助了俄罗斯越野滑雪联合会(Russian Cross-Country Skiing Federation),而国有石油管道巨头Transneft则赞助了俄罗斯雪车联合会(Russian Bobsleigh Federation)。


多年来,俄罗斯一直依靠苏联时代成长起来的本土教练人才,甚至在苏联集体后向国外输出教练。而现在,俄罗斯却从海外引进了教练。雪车队招募了加拿大教练利德斯(Pierre Lueders);雪橇队引入了意大利教练普莱克纳(Walter Plaikner);冰壶队聘请了瑞士冠军利普斯(Thomas Lips)任教。茹科夫对《俄罗斯体育日报》称,截至去年,俄罗斯国家队共有约92名外籍人士。

俄罗斯甚至还让海外出生的运动员代表俄罗斯参赛。2011年末,俄罗斯官员向三次赢得短道速滑金牌的韩国运动员维克托•安(Victor Ahn)授予了俄罗斯国籍,而维克托•安帮助俄罗斯在这项运动中赢得了声誉。苏联时代的冬奥会没有短道速滑项目,因此这项运动过去很少受到俄罗斯政府的支持。

乌克兰出生的花样滑冰运动员沃洛索扎(Tatiana Volosozhar)在2010年加入了俄罗斯国籍,被认为很有可能与搭档特兰科夫(Maxim Trankov)在双人滑比赛中赢得奖牌。