At a recent meeting with the staff of Belaruskali, Belarus’s most profitable company, Lukashenka, who heads the country’s National Olympic Committee, uttered a few inspirational words about the upcoming games.
“The main thing for us is not participation but winning. The more medals, the better,” he said. That’s not exactly the motto the International Olympic Committee had in mind.
Belarus sports an impressive record of medals, having won 19 medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, 14 at the Summer Olympics in Athens in 2004, and 17 at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney in 2000.
Lukashenka still expects the best from his athletes. The infamous "last dictator of Europe" raised the stakes this year and says he is expecting no less than 20 medals from his team.
“Twenty-five medals. That means heroes. They say it is a lot. I say, 'Good, go for 20 medals; five of them gold.' They say it is hard,” Lukashenka said.
Perhaps the leader is familiar with the Laundry Room Viking meme, which made its rounds after Hurricane Irene last year.
Additionally, Lukashenka upped the ante this year by promising significantly higher awards for all three medals. Those who bring home gold medals will receive $150,000 -- up $50,000 from the Beijing Olympics.
Despite his hunger for Olympic recognition, Lukashenka (one of the few leaders barred from this year's Olympics) apparently doesn't think too highly of the international event, or so he tells his domestic audience.
In a speech he gave at the opening ceremony for the Slavyanski Bazaar arts festival in Vitebsk on July 12, he made an unlikely comparison between the Olympics and the festival.
"The Olympics is way behind our bazaar,” he said. “It is very politicized and there are many problems there, while Slavyanski Bazaar is an island of free thinking, independence, and there's much to be learned from our Slavyanski Bazaar.”
-- Deana Kjuka
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