I was invited to teach at the Russian International Olympic University (RIOU) by its rector, Lev Belousov, in 2012, in London, at the Olympic Legacy conference where I was one of the speakers. At that time the university was in its infancy, actually, it was just an idea – but an interesting idea. Generally speaking, such a university had no parallel in the world so far. I knew that this was an ambitious project – the Board of Trustees included members of the government and representatives of the International Olympic Committee and Russian National Olympic Committee. To join the team of a unique university is the opportunity of a lifetime. Of course, I gladly accepted the invitation.
As I was asked to work not only with international, but also with Russian groups, I had to rub up on my Russian. Many years ago I learned Russian at school and at the university, but communication at the academic level is quite another story. I have to admit this was a real challenge for me.
I teach one of the basic courses studied by our students – the Sport Governance and Development. The course covers the essence of the Olympic Movement, its mission and principles, what is necessary for successful management in this sphere. In Russian language the word «governance» does not exist – it’s not just management, «governance» rather refers to interaction of the state and society, to influence of Olympism on social development.
Quite naturally, the academic content changes following the latest high-profile doping scandals and other events in sports global management. The problems are serious and my colleagues and I examine them thoroughly. For example, we have recently prepared an in-depth analysis of McLaren’s report. We also consider a possibility to implement a large-scale research project on modern sport governance in the Russian Federation.
My most positive experience in RIOU is its students. They are remarkable guys representing more than a dozen countries. One of the most valuable benefits of studying in Sochi is an opportunity to immerse in the multi-cultural environment. I follow the progress of my students with delight and satisfaction. When we meet for the first time they understand very little, and this is true both for international and Russian students. In RIOU the style of communication and teaching is quite different from other Russian universities. For several months I follow their progress and growing self-esteem. They are involved in academic projects, work on various challenges, and each time they improve. When we discuss their thesis they already demonstrate quite different level of development and understanding of the profession.
We maintain good connections with our graduates and are glad to keep track of their professional lives after Sochi. Generally, their carriers are quite successful. Quite often they work in National Olympic Committees – for example, one of our graduates heads a department in the German National Olympic Committee, and another one works in the Organizing Committee of Winter Olympics in Korea. We have students from Africa, China and South America. They are all very grateful for the knowledge and skills they were able to get at the university. All the more so the program includes not only lectures, but also training at real sport events. The first year students had their internship programs at the Sochi Olympics and other major international competitions in Russia, the 2018 FIFA World Cup is upcoming.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Vladimir Potanin Foundation: we are well aware that without this support the life of the university as an independent educational establishment would be much harder. To those who think whether or not to participate in the Olympic Scholarship program, I can assure that they definitely should participate, as the university provides an opportunity to get first-hand knowledge. The choice of professors is unique and the majority of our students brilliantly fulfill themselves in their profession upon graduation – and this alone is confirmation of success.