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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Calls for Revival of Sporting Greatness

President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called the revival of sports among ordinary Russians vital to the health of the nation.

Meeting for the first time with his Council on Physical Culture and Sports, set up earlier this year, Putin said the revival of sports was "a No. 1 task," according to Itar-Tass.

Noting Russia's "long-standing traditions of winning" in sports, he lamented a decline in some areas, which he attributed to a lack of government attention.

Putin said the decline in sports contributed to Russians' declining health and the falling population, Itar-Tass reported.

Russian sports stars who sit on the council lamented a lack of modern facilities.

"There are no good bases for training really good tennis players," tennis star Yevgeny Kafelnikov said after the meeting.

Putin said the government should create "stimuli to allow sports to develop."

"In many countries, sports are a very profitable business," he said in remarks shown on state-owned Channel 1.

Putin called on Cabinet officials to consider special low customs duties on high-tech imported equipment that Russian manufacturers might use to make sporting goods. However, he balked at the idea of across-the-board tax cuts for all sports equipment imports, according to Itar-Tass.

Vyacheslav Fetisov, who coached Russia to the Olympic bronze medal in hockey and now chairs the State Sports Committee, suggested establishing a lottery to be overseen by his committee. Proceeds could fund sports, including the creation of an all-sport TV channel, the agency said.

Previous attempts to raise money for sports by granting special economic privileges were tainted by corruption allegations. The National Sports Fund, a group set up by former President Boris Yeltsin, enjoyed vastly profitable exemptions from tariffs on imported alcohol and cigarettes.