President Vladimir Putin, a well known Judo master, spent last Saturday, April 14 at the International Mixed Martial Arts Tournament in St. Petersburg, where he made the attached speech along with Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Dear friends,
Let me wish you a warm welcome. First of all, I would like to thank the organisers, the sportsmen and their trainers for coming to Russia. It is a great honour for us to receive the best fighters here in Russia, in St Petersburg.
I am not going to speak now about who achieved victory and who was defeated on this occasion. You are all outstanding sportspeople and you have done us a great honour and brought Russian fans much joy by coming here. We thank you for this and will always be pleased to see you here. I want to tell you that you have many friends here in Russia.
Yours is a particularly tough sport, but it has its own kind of nobility and respect for one’s opponent. This is a sport for men and women of courage. I congratulate you on today’s event and wish you future success.
JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME (translated back from Russian): What a fine speech! What is there for me to add now?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Plenty, I’m sure. You are known and loved by millions. Your performances have captured the attention of many young people, and this is very important. Practically all the characters you have portrayed are examples of brave and decent people.
JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME: First of all, I am happy to be here. And to have been invited here by the President of Russia is a great honour.
Politicians know how to make speeches, of course, but listening to President Putin speak, I felt that this was not just another speech by a politician but words that came from the heart, because this is someone who knows sport, who has practiced sport and continues to do so.
The people gathered here today, the fighters, men and women, are indeed brave and noble people. It is also wonderful to see that our sponsors and friends are helping to develop this sport.
Anyway, I would like to express my sincere respect for you. Thank you.