Leader's Speech to Olympic and Paralympic Medalists

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on March 11, 2013 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in a meeting with Olympic and Paralympic Medalists.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I am very happy to see you dear champions. You have achieved many glories. You managed to conquer the peaks of success with your firm determination. Like mountain peaks which mountaineers conquer by rock climbing and making great efforts and thus become a source of honor by doing this -so also are the peaks of spiritual and national glories valuable when they are conquered by our youth. And you managed to do this.

Champions play a significant role on two important levels: individual and social. On the individual level, the youth who win competitions show and prove that they have outstanding qualities. For example, they show that they have firm determination. If an athlete does not have firm determination, he will not be a champion. If he does not have determination, he will not even play sport. Although everyone speaks about sports activities - regular sports activities such as morning exercise - a number of people do not like to spend even 10 minutes exercising. This shows lack of determination. When a young individual plays a sport, when he endures physical hardships resulting from playing sport, when he eagerly decides to increase his physical capabilities, this shows his firm determination. This is a personal quality.

Another point is the issue of intelligence. No champion can win a championship without having high intelligence. This is true of all sports. That is to say, it is not the case that a physically strong person can win competitions with his physical strength. Physical strength is not enough. Having high intelligence is necessary. Unless an individual or an athlete is intelligent and unless he has a curious, agile and brilliant mind, he is unlikely to reach higher levels no matter if it is team sports, individual sports, wrestling, weightlifting, mountain climbing, martial arts and other such sports that they participate in. Therefore, when we look at a champion, we find him to be a manifestation of intelligence, firm determination, physical capabilities and many other qualities. Naturally, a champion has great self-confidence. He does not need to do things that weak people do. He does not need to flatter, lie and cheat. He does not need to be hypocritical.

Of course, I am not saying that all those who are athletes do not have these qualities. People sometimes make a mistake. But, normally, these negative qualities are foreign to a champion. This is the significance of champions on an individual level.

On a social level, a champion raises national self-confidence because he is the manifestation of the capabilities of a nation in a certain arena. That is to say, he raises the self-confidence of all people in a country. This is a very important thing. On the other hand, a champion encourages all people in a society to move towards this path. Professional sports are the engine for regular exercise. With professional sports, we can do something to make regular exercise common. Regular exercise is one of the necessities of life. It is like eating and breathing. We should pay attention to it. This is another role of sports on a social level.

Another issue is that professional sports - now that international competitions are well-established and popular - are a manifestation of the capacities, dignity and identity of a nation. And this is a very important thing. When you enter sports arenas and when you observe morality and exercise good sportsmanship - fortunately, you enter sports arenas with these qualities - in the eye of international spectators, this reflects a fact about your country. Today, there are millions and, in certain cases, billions of spectators and they will be aware of this fact. Such a fact cannot be reflected in a different way. An athlete promotes the values of a nation with good sportsmanship and piety. The fact that our woman athletes enter sports arenas with hijab is very important. I do not know whether those who evaluate the events of our country have an accurate understanding of this issue or not. This is an extraordinary issue.

In a certain European country, some people dare to kill a woman because she is wearing hijab. And they do it in a court of law and in front of the judge. This is the case. They are not ashamed of it. Under a certain illegitimate law, they harass women who wear hijab in universities, stadiums, parks and on the streets. In such conditions, a woman who wears hijab stands on the medal platform in such countries and makes everyone respect her. Is this a minor achievement? This is a very great achievement. Everybody should appreciate from the bottom of their heart the value of woman athletes who participate in international arenas with hijab and modesty. And we should appreciate the value of disabled athletes. What they do is really astonishing. When people look at these athletes, they see that not only does their disability not prevent them from living in a normal way, but they are also so determined that they become athletes and stand on the medal platform.

This shows the determination of a nation. This shows the dignity and identity of a nation. When I express my gratitude to you after you achieve a victory, there is an honest and genuine feeling behind this gratitude. I really feel that you are rendering services to your country and your people by winning competitions. You convey messages that cannot be conveyed by any other means. You convey the message of determination, resistance and faith. When our athletes achieve a victory in such arenas and when they are ranked first, they chant the slogan of "Ya Hussein", prostrate themselves and hold up their hands and thank God. Do you know how excited the Islamic Ummah and Muslim nations become when you do this? In sports arenas, our outstanding youth - not ordinary youth - give such prominence to spirituality in a world in which there is an effort to make young individuals decadent and turn their backs on spirituality. What our athletes do is very effective and important.

What I want to say is that you should appreciate your value. Very great achievements are made in sports arenas. Fortunately, Islamic Iran has made astonishing progress in this area since the victory of the Islamic Revolution until today. Today, you are ahead of others in many arenas. There are times when our wrestlers wrestle their opponents - who are from strong countries at wrestling - to the ground and stand on the medal platform. Well, this is very outstanding and important. But even if we consider all sports together, the situation is the same. Imagine that in an international sports competition - such as the recent one - you participate with 54 athletes and you win 12 medals. Imagine that America participates with 530 athletes and it wins 110 medals. If America wants to win as many medals as you do, it should win 120 medals. It participates with 10 times more athletes than you do. Therefore, it should win 10 times more medals than you do. It should win 120 medals. But it has not won 120 medals. Therefore, its performance is at a lower level. This means that if you participate in different sports with as many athletes as America and with the same quality, you will be ahead of all your opponents. These are valuable achievements. These are facts which show our capacities.

Today, everybody speaks about our achievements in sports. But it is not only sports. Fortunately, the same is true of scientific areas. In areas related to research - which broaden our horizons regarding different issues - such as economic and political areas, management and international issues, whenever Iranian talents were entrusted with a certain task, we saw signs of progress in that area. These are our capacities. This is our country. That is why our history is so outstanding. People like Ibn Sina [Avicenna], Zakariya Razi, Farabi, Saadi, Hafiz and other such people cannot be born in a low-level society. This shows that enormous capacities exist in this area of the world. These capacities had fallen into decline because they were under the domination of oppressive and dictatorial powers who were not dependent on the people, who were immoral and inhumane and who were not knowledgeable. Today, fortunately, the Revolution has acted in a way that these capacities can develop in all areas, particularly sports.

These are your characteristics. As I said, you are like a mountain peak. You are regarded as people who are at the peak of success. And the thing that you do is, in fact, a movement towards peaks. You also prepare the ground for the movement of the people towards peaks. This is very valuable. As I said, you are the ambassadors of Iran who represent the Iranian nation's identity and dignity. You should preserve these characteristics. The fact that you introduce your nation as a determined, religious, talented and noble nation which is committed to sharia is very valuable. You should preserve this. You should take care not to let this change.

The youth of the country look up to you. You promote sports in practice. I would tell you that you should promote it in words too. That is to say, you should encourage the youth of the country through interviews and the speeches that you deliver in the media, television and other such things. Share your experience in sports so that the youth will be excited. We need all the people in our country to do sports activities. The country is really in such a need. The existence of a healthy manpower is of prime importance to the country because a country makes progress with its manpower. Natural resources, mines and natural wealth are good things, but if there is no manpower, if there is no human capacities in a country, it will face the same situation that a number of countries which have these natural resources do. In such conditions, other countries go and make use of their natural resources and they make these countries get used to laziness. Manpower should develop so that natural resources can be beneficial to the society. So, manpower is the most important factor.

There should be knowledgeable, determined, religious and healthy manpower. Physical health is the main condition for the existence of such manpower. If people turn to sports activities, many social and behavioral problems - such as addiction, family rows, financial and psychological problems and other such problems - will be solved. Many of our problems will be solved if sports activities become truly common among all the people in our country. Of course, today the situation is a lot better than the past, but we still need to improve this. You can play a role in this regard. That is to say, you can strengthen morality and promote Iranian traditions.

The fact that our youth refused to compete with Zionist athletes in sports arenas is very valuable. That is why arrogant powers became so angry. They reacted strongly when this happened several times. This move, which was made by our youth, is very important. It is truly a crucial and important diplomatic effort to confront the Zionist regime. What they did was a very valuable move.

I would like to stress the issue of morality in sports. Our friends in this meeting spoke about it. I am aware of it and I accept what they said. Fortunately, our athletes are morally healthy. But we should strongly stress this issue. There are certain dangers. When there is a lot of media attention on an international level, a young athlete may be in serious danger of becoming immoral. We should hold this danger at bay. First, you athletes and second, officials in charge of sporting activities and managers in different areas of sports, who are in charge of and involved with these issues, should pay attention to the issue of morality in sports. The issue of morality in sports is very important. Being humble, being loyal and sympathetic to the people and exercising good sportsmanship are very important qualities. It is one thing to achieve these qualities, it is quite another to preserve these qualities. One should preserve these qualities.

In my opinion, a number of people destroy the sporting environment by making accusations, causing rows, spreading false rumors and damaging the reputation of individuals. Unfortunately, the media which broadcast sporting events have played a major role in committing these illegal actions. I deem it necessary to warn them in this regard. Media networks which broadcast sporting events find a trivial issue to use against a certain team, a certain athletics federation and a certain athlete. They use it as a tool to pit this against that, to cause rows and make them give a controversial interview. The more harshly an interviewee speaks, the more inappropriate things he says and the more he curses in his interview, the happier these media networks will be. This is a wrong course of action and the exact opposite should be promoted by media networks.

Another issue which I have spoken about many times - this is related to officials in charge of sporting activities - is that you should take the issue of prioritizing different sports into consideration. There are a number of sports which have deep historical roots in our country. We are experienced in these sports and we have great capacities for such sports. That is to say, we have different capabilities in these sports. These are sports which give us a good chance of winning competitions. I have referred to a number of such sports in recent years.

Well, in such and such sports, we do not at all rank high in the world and we have no chance to do so. We are unlikely to rank high in such sports. Of course, there are certain reasons for this. But in certain sports, we are ranked high in the world. Today, you stand on the medal platform in a number of sports such as wrestling, weightlifting or other sports. This is very important. A few years ago - I do not remember which year it was - I had a meeting with my athlete friends. I referred to chowgan [polo] as one of these sports in that meeting. Well, chowgan is a sport which belongs to the people of Iran. It is our sport and it is a good sport. It is an entertaining and exciting sport. We have a talent for this sport in Iran. If we had not had a talent for this, it would not have been established. Throughout history, chowgan has been a well-known sport in Iran. I also referred to varzesh-e bastani. Certain measures were taken and certain efforts were made to improve it. These are good and valuable measures. In any case, you should consider priorities. You should pay attention to sports which have deep historical roots and in which we are talented, particularly sports for which we have native coaches.

One of the brothers in this meeting said that we should benefit from foreign coaches. I have no objections in this regard. You should not think that I am opposed to hiring a good and competent foreign coach. But when you benefit from a native coach for soccer, basketball, volleyball, wrestling or any other sports, I become happy and I feel a sense of pride. It is very good that the coach of our athletes and our youth is one of us and is nurtured here. Of course, some foreign coaches are good and some others are not good and they take a lot of money, they have high expectations and sometimes they do not carry out their duties. There are such coaches. Therefore, this is what I mean when I sometimes speak about foreign coaches.

Our friends in this meeting spoke about adopting a scientific approach towards sports. What they say is absolutely true. This is what I mostly speak about. I have spoken about this issue many times. You should adopt a scientific approach towards sports - the ones which have research-based guidelines. You should improve research. As other scientific research, the research that is carried out in the world on a specific sport is not the last word. It is possible to carry out research on the basis of such research or add new things to it in order to improve or even reject it. Well, you should do such things in Iran. We have managed to make so much progress in complex scientific areas with the help of our youth. We have managed to do things which the enemy could not even imagine. It could not imagine that an Iranian individual can do such things. Therefore, you can do this too.

The Tehran research reactor was running out of fuel. They said to us that we should give our 3.5-percent uranium to such and such a country so that it turns it into 20-percent uranium. Then this country would give it to such and such a country to turn it into fuel. Then they said that with the permission of the masters of the world, this fuel can come to our country. That is to say, it would have to go through several mazes. And it would not reach any results. If we had decided to buy nuclear fuel for the research reactors that we have, they would not have given a bit of it to us without making the Iranian nation completely humiliated. Once I said that if the oil that we have, belonged to the Europeans and if we wanted to buy oil or petroleum from them, they would sell each barrel of it to us at an exorbitant price. They are such people. They thought that we would have to buy the 20-percent fuel from them and we would give in to their demands. That is why they created such obstacles. But our youth carried out research on it and they themselves produced the 20-percent fuel. Then they thought that we would not be able to produce fuel plates and fuel rods. But our youth built them and they installed them. Now, they are faced with a fait accompli that the Iranian nation presented them with.

Such complex and great work is being carried out. Why do not we carry out great work in sports? The rules and practices that exist in sports - whether individual sports such as wrestling and weightlifting or team sports - should be researched. You should add new ideas to such research and you should improve parts of it.

You should improve sports in terms of scientific approach. This improvement is related to sports which have research-based guidelines in the world. A number of our sports do not have research-based guidelines. We should develop such guidelines for these sports such as varzesh-e bastani which a number of our friends in this meeting spoke about. It is possible to develop such guidelines for them. A number of activities in varzesh-e bastani are very interesting such as doing meel exercises [exercises with large wooden clubs]. The people of Mashhad refer to it as "guargeh". This is a very interesting activity. Why do not we establish rules and develop guidelines for it until it becomes a popular sport? Another interesting activity in varzesh-e bastani is doing charkh [whirling]. There are other interesting activities in our varzesh-e bastani.

In any case, I hope that Allah the Exalted will help all of you succeed. I express my deep gratitude to all of you and all the young athletes for the things that they did in international arenas such as saying adhan after conquering the peaks of success, prostrating themselves, praying, mentioning the name of our infallible Imams (a.s.) and wearing hijab. May God bestow success on you. You are very popular among the people of Iran and I hope you will remain popular forever.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings