Glory for country
<img class="imgl" alt="" src="http://www.belarus-magazine.by/belen/data/upimages/2009/0001-009-439.jpg">[b]The Palace of Independence recently hosted two important meetings, first welcoming the CIS Heads of State Summit and, then, the Ecuadorian President (on his official visit to Minsk). In addition, not long ago, Mr. Lukashenko invited youth forum participants to visit the Palace.[/b]
It’s always a special occasion when the central doors of the Palace open to guests: be they Olympic champions or top global statesmen. Of course, our sportsmen work just as hard to promote Belarus as do our premier ministers, as we much appreciate. Nadezhda Skardino, Alla Tsuper, Anton Kushnir and Darya Domracheva appeared a little subdued on entering the Palace hall: they are more at home on the slopes or biathlon track than a red carpet – unlike film stars receiving their ‘Oscar’, surrounded habitually by lights and TV cameras. My natural inclination was to reassure them: they have travelled so many kilometres - and how many lie ahead? A few steps on a red carpet are nothing in comparison. Nevertheless, the Palace of Independence exerts a sense of wonder over all visitors, creating memories never forgotten. Moreover, the majesty of the ceremony perhaps made them realise the nation’s true appreciation of their achievements. We love them and wish to shower them with honours.
The President personally welcomed the winners, presenting state awards. Darya Domracheva received the Hero Star of Belarus for her unique Olympic triple-gold triumph. Her achievement may never be repeated. Our freestyle jumpers each received a 3rd Degree Order of the Fatherland for their extreme bravery and dedication: even one tiny error can deprive them of a medal. The same award was given to Nadezhda Skardino, to whom Mr. Lukashenko recalled the proverb: ‘Faith is the mother of success while labour is its father’. The entire nation hopes that Nadezhda’s confident path to a gold medal is just beginning.
Several more sportsmen, coaches and specialists were awarded at the meeting, with the chief coach of the Belarusian freestyle team – Nikolay Kozeko – receiving a 1st Degree Order of the Fatherland. In delivering a short speech, his voice trembled with emotion, unsurprisingly. Nobody can doubt the wisdom of state investment into sports: the results have been convincing. Darya – speaking to journalists – modestly noted that her Star can hardly be compared to those awarded to older generations, who were honoured for risking, or giving, their lives for the nation. She pledged to always live up to the great honour of her award and we do not doubt that she will always do so.
Several messages were clear in Alexander Lukashenko’s speech. He urged the Olympic athletes to bear their awards with all honour, noting that it’s no small challenge to handle fame and success with due modesty – and to set an example to younger athletes, whose major competitions lie ahead. The President received the state flag, which flew in Sochi, passing it from the winners to a group of young sportsmen. Our Games successes are vital but we must now build on them, since Belarusian sport remains weak in other areas.
It’s hoped that the national team will hold its head high at the coming Ice Hockey World Championship, being hosted in May by Minsk. In honestly, their play leaves something to be desired. They have some way to go to match the glory attained by our Olympic winners. Many had already been making plans to visit our World Championship but our success at the Sochi Games is inspiring even more foreigners to attend. Our country has been put on the map, with people all over the globe now perceiving Belarus as a sporting state. Naturally, with so many eager to see for themselves, we must be sure that all their impressions are positive. It would be wonderful for our hockey players to demonstrate some of the success seen by our athletes at the Olympics, although team competitions are known to be especially difficult to win. The baton has been passed from our Olympic sportsmen to our hockey players and what will be will be.
By Dmitry Kryat
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