Russia President Vladimir Putin is going to use unused Olympic funds to start a fitness program that dates back to the Soviet Union. The Russian Federation was dominant during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Putin remarked after the games:
“The Olympics and Paralympics have demonstrated that we are again becoming one of the leaders in global sports.”
This is not shocking since Putin is obsessed with physical activities and his own body. Putin is often photographed taking part in different sports and he likes to be shown shirtless to show off what he views as a very built body.
Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin introduced the GTO, also known as Ready for “Labour and Defence of the USSR,” in 1931. The Soviet Union was obsessed with sports and physical health, which led them to often lead the world in competitions. They were the world leaders in hockey, which made the 1980 Miracle on Ice so impressive.
The physical activities in the GTO include: gymnastics, races, long and high jumps, throwing, swimming, skiing and small-arms fire. It was revised in 1940, 1947, 1959, 1965 and 1972. From the Great Soviet Encyclopedia:
The first stage of Ready for Labor and Defense is designed for juniors 16-18 years of age; the second stage is for adults (19 years and older). Be Ready for Labor and Defense is for boys and girls 14-15 years old. A special stage of the complex–Ready for Defense of the Motherland–was introduced in 1966. The complex has been altered from time to time in accord with the aims of the Soviet system of physical training.
The athletes competed under the Unified Sports Classification System of the USSR. That program was revised every four years to align with the Olympics.
The GTO broke down after the USSR broke apart in 1991. It remained alive in rural areas of former Soviet states, but the program started to show life again in 2003. In fact, Putin brought up the program in 2013 and sought Hollywood star Steven Seagal to promote the program.
It is no secret Putin longs for the days of the USSR. He is an ex-KGB leader and said “[T]he collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the century.” He has been bullying former Soviet states as a way to persuade them back into Russia power, including an invasion of Georgia in 2008. He managed to gain two territories from Georgia.
Ukraine is the crown jewel of the former states and deposed president Viktor Yanukovych was viewed as Putin’s puppet. After pro-West demonstrators ousted Yanukovych, Putin swooped in and annexed the Crimea peninsula. He also put more troops on Ukraine’s east border and remarks by Moscow diplomats and ambassadors have Latvia and Estonia scared they may be Putin’s next target.