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RUSSIA
Russia took part in the games as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 1952 until 1988, then as the Community of Independent States in 1992 in Barcelona, and now, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, once again as Russia.This nation, which sent delegations to the very first games before the first world war, stayed out of the Olympic movement for many years. It was only in 1952 that its athletes came back under the banner of the Soviet Union, for which it provided by far the greatest reservoir of champions.Russia remains, as she demonstrated at the 1996 Atlanta games, one of the very top Olympic nations.Since sport was just as effective a way of impressing the world as displays of military might or the ability to send men into space, the Soviet Union and Russia in particular used it to the full by sending towering champions to both the summer and winter games.To mention only a few of the greatest, remember Alexeiev in weightlifting, Ivanov in rowing, Korbut and Chukarin in gymnastics, Medved in wrestling, Popov in swimming or Sanaiev in athletics.At the winter games a few Russian names will forever be remembered: Skoblikova in speed skating, Zimiatov and Kulakova in cross-country skiing, and the ice-hockey players of the Big Red Team.Russia only organised the games once, in Moscow in 1980. These games were boycotted by many (60) western nations following Russia's invasion of a small neighbouring country, Afghanistan, a few months earlier. Despite the fall of communism, Russia is still a very powerful sporting nation, finishing second in the unofficial medals table at the Sydney games of 2000, with 32 gold medals won mainly in gymnastics, shooting, athletics, wrestling or weightlifting. It should be said that the Russian competitors had several additional motivations: President Vladimir Putin promised 100.000 dollars to those who returned from Australia with a gold medal around their neck.
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