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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Salesman for the Olympics

With casual formality and a patient tone, Alexander Kozlovsky, vice president of the Russian Olympic Committee, chooses his words carefully as he explains the difficulties that athletes and sports face in this uncertain political and economic climate.

"We are very limited in finances", the soft-spoken St. Petersburg native said. "We practically don't receive any support from the state and, although the lottery we launched is doing well, inflation is doing better".

As the committee's director of international relations, Kozlovsky has negotiated a number of successful sponsorship deals with Western firms to keep the Olympic movement alive. He is doing the same for the St. Petersburg Goodwill Games in 1994.

Kozlovsky is a visionary and sees the Goodwill Games as a problematic but positive event. He accepts criticism for staging an event that will drain valuable public funds, but refuses to be caught in short-term thinking.

"To stage the Goodwill Games is a challenge", he said. "It is a challenge for the people, a challenge for the city, and a challenge for the country".

Kozlovsky is not unfamiliar with difficult situations in the world of sports. In 1976, he joined the organizing committee of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

"It was disappointing because it was the worst, worst place to be", said Kozlovsky. "But it happened to be something very interesting, very attractive to me. It changed my whole life".

While helping to organize the 1980 Games, Kozlovsky got a taste of Western business practices when he went to the government for support.

"We had to go to the Central Committee of the Communist Party and say 'sponsor u's and then explain what that was", he said.

Kozlovsky, a fluent English speaker, emerged as a key adviser to the president of the organizing committee and was responsible for coordinating relations with other national Olympic committees. Although he admits to difficulties, time has erased all memory of hardships associated with the Games.

"I don't remember how hard it was" to put the games on, he said. "I do remember that everything was just like a fairy tale. It was a beautiful city".

After spending the first half of the 1980s working on the Council of Ministers as the general secretary on the standing committee for the protection of nature, Kozlovsky returned to the world of sports.

He became deputy chairman of Goskomsport - the State Sport Committee. Eventually, he was elected to the U. S. S. R. Olympic Committee. When the Soviet Union collapsed, he quickly switched to the Russian Olympic Committee.

He works now with Vitaly Smirnov, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee. Kozlovsky had to negotiate the contract for the 1994 Goodwill Games twice - the first agreement, drawn up in 1991, became invalid when the Soviet Union dissolved. The second time, Kozlovsky negotiated a ground-breaking deal. "It was a new thing for this country", he said. "Never before had the sports ministry shared with anybody the right to sign a contract".

"We made a general draft and then invited all the federations to come and negotiate directly with the Americans about the terms of the agreement financially, and the responsibilities of the federations".

Through Kozlovsky, 24 federations individually signed the contract. He then orchestrated a similar deal with Reebok to sponsor the Olympic movement in Russia until the Atlanta Games in 1996. The Reebok deal will provide "a good financial basis for the next few years", he said, as well as supply various types of equipment. These successes behind him, Kozlovsky is optimistic about the future of sports here.

"Now I believe we can survive because we worked out an economic program to the Western pattern - marketing, sponsorship, all this licensing and what not", he said. "We are separate, independent and uncontrolled by the state".

Although he knows that he has a long, uphill road ahead of him, Kozlovsky has unshakable faith in the power, skill and tenacity of the Russian athletes and coaches.

"I still believe that we are and will be very, very strong", he said. "I don't know what will happen next year in Lillehammer, but I believe that by Atlanta in 1996 we will already be good competitors irrespective of the situation in our country".