Russia's Medvedev: 'Badminton Fosters Success'

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: In Russia, a video posted on President Dmitry Medvedev's video blog has elicited a collective "huh?". In the video Medvedev extolls the virtues of badminton.

Dmitry Medvedev: We too play badminton. I believe that it is great. It offers great benefits since, like any sport, helps on to develop physically, hand-eye coordination, precision, reaction and also to deal with all kinds of life's challenges. He who knows how to play badminton well can make decisions fast which indicates willpower, willpower to achieve results.

Mullins: Courtney Weaver is a reporter based in Moscow for the Financial Times. He's saying that with a straight face, Courtney. What's this video and the message all about?

Courtney Weaver: Great question. Medvedev hasn't had the best month here in Moscow. He announced last month that he would be stepping down from the Presidency to make way for Vladimir Putin, his predecessor and now his successor it looks like and he was, he got into a fight with the Finance Minister and his whole image as a modernizer and a real, a different person from Mr. Putin has completely been eradicated over the last couple of weeks and just to come out and say, with this video and say that he's a big fan of badminton and he wants to spread badminton all over Russia when Putin is obviously a well known judo black belt, just has this image of him having such a degraded reputation.

Mullins: Yeah, Putin is a judo black belt. He's also been, you know, like wrestling wild animals and showing off his pecs, always of course, with a camera present. So Medvedev is clearly trying to take a softer tone, but we should say that in the video we do see Medvedev and Putin going at it across the net. Weird to see these two world leaders in Russia swatting at a birdie, but what's the bigger message if there is one?

Weaver: Well, I mean I think it's just, they've often, there's a whole series of what we call here as a "bromance" photos and, you know, Medvedev and Putin at the sea, chucking into the snow. So there seems to be a new sequence in that and they've actually been photographed playing badminton before.

Mullins: So it's a bromance? Because it looks more like a bit of a match.

Weaver: Yeah, I mean I don't think it's, I mean anyone who's watching this, even if they're not a badminton expert, can see that neither is a real athlete in this sport and so even though they're concentrating on the birdie, it doesn't seems too ferocious. These bromance photos, I think they really are a way to show that, you know, despite their differences on certain issues, that Putin Medvedev, they're friends, they're the same person and there's no divergence of policy in the Kremlin, that even though they may be across nets from each other sometimes, they're still playing on the same team.

Mullins: But is there a larger message going on here that people are taking away from this?

Weaver: Well, I mean I think there are two ways to look at it. I mean there was quite a bit of criticism on the internet because there are quite a number of problems in Russia right now especially in the education system in terms of having not enough teachers, not having enough resources and physical education altogether. So to focus on just such a small issue as badminton seems a bit odd. I mean there have been a couple of videos like this recently where you wonder, people who are seeding these videos and putting in that weird elevator music what they're thinking, but maybe they just have a sense of humor and hope that we do as well.

Mullins: Courtney Weaver, reporter based in Moscow for the Financial Times. We're going to make a link to that video on our website, theworld.org. Thanks a lot Courtney.

Weaver: Thank you.

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