Putin urges Soviet-style fitness program, with actor Seagal

Wed Mar 13, 2013 12:51pm EDT
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By Alexei Anishchuk

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin reached back to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's era for a plan to improve Russians' physical fitness on Wednesday, and appeared with film actor Steven Seagal at an event aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles among young people.

In a meeting at a martial arts school on Moscow's outskirts, Putin called for physical education rooted in a Soviet-era system.

"I think it would be quite appropriate to recall the positive experience of past decades when the so-called GTO, Ready for Labour and Defence, was in use in our country," he said. The GTO mass physical training program was introduced in the 1930s under Stalin.

"The revival of this system - in a new, modern format - could bring major benefits," Putin told government officials, schoolteachers and coaches.

He told the education and sports ministers to study the issue and said students' performance under the system should be taken into account when universities consider applications.

Putin, who began a six-year term in May, has frequently appealed to nostalgia for the perceived order of the Soviet era.

Soviet-era marches played at the Sambo-70 school as students dressed in the white, red and blue of Russia's flag waited for Putin at a ceremony to open a new building at the school. An announcer added to the martial atmosphere by urging "full alertness".

Seagal's action films are popular in Russia and he has met the president several times. In what seemed to be a choreographed incident, Seagal rushed into a crowd of children trying to pose with Putin and pulled him out, as if acting as his bodyguard.   Continued...

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and actor Steven Seagal (L) visit a new sports arena on the territory of the Sambo-70 training sports complex in Moscow, March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Pool