In athens Russia's national will be among main competitors for team qualification

Experts forecast that, at the Olympic Games in Athens, the Russian national team can take the second place in the unofficial team qualification (priority goes to the team having the most of gold medals). Valentin Balakhnichev, deputy chief of staff for the training and participation of Russian athletes in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, told RIA Novosti in an exclusive interview.

"There were different forecasts made before the Olympics. But we don't trust very much our 'oracles'," he said. "I asked an Italian expert of the Olympic movement for an independent analysis of the Olympic teams' performance last year."

So, the Russian team with its 30 gold medals is to rank second after the United States' team, outdoing ours by one or two gold medals, Balakhnichev said referring to the Italian expert.

"But you should remember that the situation is volatile this sport season," Balakhnichev stressed. "It can be said with a high degree of certainty what will happen at the Olympics. By August 1 things will become clearer in, say, track and field and other sports."

Earlier, Leonid Tyagachev, chief of the Russian Olympic Committee, also spoke of 30 gold medals, though did not ruled out the possibility of a 'flop' for the Russian Olympic team. Incidentally, at the preceding Olympics in Sydney in 2000 Russians won 32 gold, 28 silver and 28 bronze medals.

Balakhnichev also said that the government promised Olympic champions and prizewinners a monetary remuneration of 50,000, 20,000 and 10,000 dollars for gold, silver and bronze, respectively. "The Russian Olympic Committee is also preparing a separate prize fund. Its size will be announced immediately before the Olympic Games begin. As far as I know, the money is intended for coaches," he said.

Commenting on the Olympic preparations in Greece, Balakhnichev opined that all the sport facilities would be ready in time. "From our Olympic history I recall that an hour before the start of competitions some construction work, such as asphalt laying, was still in process but everything was ready in due time," Balakhnichev said. "I'm sure in Athens everything will be okay. The Greeks may only happen to fail holding test competitions or some technical equipment may be absent."

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Author`s name: Editorial Team