Putin brings in Steven Seagal to sell revival of nationwide Stalin-era fitness program
Associated Press and National Post Staff
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin called Wednesday for the revival of a Soviet-era physical evaluation program that required all schoolchildren to pass fitness tests. To do so, he made an appearance with American action movie star Steven Seagal.
Putin, a judo enthusiast and a regular swimmer, said that the restoration of GTO, the Russian acronym for Ready for Labor and Defense, would teach children “to stand up for themselves, their family and, in the final run, the Fatherland.”
GTO, which was introduced in 1931 under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s rule, required all school and university students to regularly pass physical training tests. Those managing to qualify would receive silver- or gold-colored badges.
In its early years, the GTO program focused heavily on tests intended to make children ready for Red Army service. The program gradually lost its scope and prestige over the years and ceased to exist with the 1991 Soviet collapse. Since then, schools largely have been left on their own regarding physical education.
At the event, the Guardian reports that Putin waded into a group of school children and that Seagal acted as his “bodyguard” to pull him out of the crowd.
Seagal has had much success in Russia even has his career in North America has devolved to direct-to-video releases and reality television shows.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told a government meeting chaired by Putin that his agency would work to introduce the physical training standards nationwide by 2016.
Putin said that Russia needs to pay more attention to physical training because it lags behind other countries. He said that Russian children now are in “significantly worse” physical shape compared to a few decades ago.
He said that the physical training standards must be flexible. “They shouldn’t be too high to avoid driving people into a heart attack,” he said, according to Russian news agencies.
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