|Photo by Silvia Vatteroni|
Blogger Papaliukin weighs in on why artistic gymnastics is not as popular as rhythmic gymnastics in Russia;
I think it’s a bit of a chicken or egg situation. Would artistic gymnastics be more popular if it were more successful? Or would artistic gymnastics be more successful if it were a bit more popular?
Making AG more visible and popular in Russia is easier said than done. If it were that easy, something would’ve been done long ago especially during the era of Khorkina and Nemov (Russia’s most successful gymnasts since the end of the Soviet Union). However, I often think they’ve never given as much thought to marketing AG as they probably should. RG comes out well ahead in that regard.
One thing Russians can take pride in is the fact RG is “their” sport. RG wasn’t born in Russia, but Russia (USSR rather) was the first country to turn it into a modern, competitive sport. Russia can’t claim the same for AG because it was a competitive sport long before the USSR entered the Olympic scene in 1952. Although the USSR clearly was the biggest influence on the evolution of AG with its influences persisting today in other countries despite the breakup of the USSR in December 1991.
It can’t be denied the impact Irina Viner has had on RG and the expansion of it. It’s worth noting she’s married to a direct source of $$$ (Alisher Usmanov). Usmanov is one of the richest men in Russia and UK, so I’d say she has it made for herself and for her work (no wonder her gymnasts’ lives are also glamorous). Anyway, regardless of what you think of her coaching tactics, corruption, judging favoritism, and diva personality, she did wonders in developing RG throughout Russia and it’s shown for years. But keep in mind there’s plenty more to the success of Russian RG besides Irina Viner. Something clicked with them and they haven’t slowed down.
Meanwhile, the Rodionenkos’ connections are good although not quite as direct as Viner’s lol. Their daughter (Valentina’s biological daughter and Andrei’s step-daughter) is Lada Fetisova, who is married to hockey legend Slava Fetisov (read all about him and Lada). He was Russia’s Minister of Sport before Vitaly Mutko and the main figure behind luring the Rodionenkos back to Russia after Leonid Arkayev was ousted. Then the later return of Alexandrov rocked the boat, he was kicked off, and now here we are.
I can agree that the Russian Gymnastics Federation has not yet found an effective way to do PR and promote AG. I can’t blame that solely on Valentina’s regular nonsense to the press. But you have to admit RGF makes it hard for fans to follow their program. Fans usually have to take their own initiative to follow and stay up to date (yet we’re amazing at it). The RGF website is great and informative, but that’s about all they have to offer. They aren’t present anywhere else.
Also, look at what we get every year with competitions in Russia - a blurry potato cam run by Penza school children without audio (except the commentators) and without live scoring. There wasn’t even any live coverage for this year’s Russian Cup right before the Olympics! How can you expect the sport to grow when the coverage sucks year after year without showing any signs of improvement? Even gymnastics fans from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan say it sucks (I see the complaints on VK). RGF doesn’t have to be as extensive as the media of USA Gymnastics. but I think the #2 gymnastics program in the world should be capable of producing something better than they currently do. Put some of that VTB money to good use (do they *really* need to build that new training center in Crimea?)