Prof. Lev Belousov: 'Experience from Sochi 2014 makes RIOU University stand out'
SOCHI, March 30, 2015 - The Russian International Olympic University (RIOU) was established in Sochi in 2009 as an important part of the lasting legacy of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. The university, considered to be world's first higher education facility dedicated soley to sport business education offers unique programmes focused on Olympic values and experiences and the Olympic and Paralympic movement. Established in cooperation with the IOC, the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), and founded by the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation and the ROC, the university's main educational product is a one-year Master of Sport Administration (MSA) course that brings together aspiring students from around the world. AIPS spoke to Professor Lev Belousov, Rector of the Russian International Olympic University, with the aim of understanding its significance to the Olympic and the future of sports.
Q: What differentiates your curriculum from other specialist sport-related university programmes?
A: The key element to our flagship Master of Sport Administration (MSA) course is its emphasis on creatively applying the knowledge and expertise accumulated by the organisers of previous Olympic Games, especially from Sochi 2014.
Whilst a lot of university programmes focus on narrow areas within sports management, such as administration or law or by specialising in a single sport only, RIOU’s model combines a traditional university curriculum with features commonly found on a career development programme.
This broader approach allows us to provide high quality training in sports management to candidates from a wide range of backgrounds. Many of our students have sport-related degrees on their CVs already but we are open to all applicants of any experience. By casting the net wider, we train more versatile sports managers as there is a greater mix of ideas and approaches amongst the student community.
Q: When the University opened in 2013 you said the aim was to "become like Harvard". Is the University developing an influential presence on the world stage and how?
A: Creating a first-class university takes time, resources and patience. We realise that to “become like Harvard” for sport will take years of hard work, but we are prepared to take on the challenge – and we are doing just that!
The Russian International Olympic University’s credentials are already very strong. We have one of the best teaching faculties for sport not just within Russia but throughout the world. Our visiting professors are drawn from some of the finest educational institutions in the USA, the UK, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Australia and elsewhere. We have cutting-edge educational and publishing programmes, a state-of-the-art campus and a well-equipped library, so nothing is stopping us from a resources point of view from aspiring to become an elite learning institution. Our name is also synonymous with providing students with direct access to the leaders of global sport and the Olympic Movement through our guest lecturer initiative. In the past two years our students have received lectures from the likes of IOC President Thomas Bach, ANOC Secretary General Gunilla Lindberg, IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Claudia Bokel, IOC Executive Board members Sergey Bubka and René Fasel and FIBT President Ivo Ferriani.
Supporting our blue-chip faculty of professors and guest lecturers is a unique Olympic Games Archive. As the custodian of this archive, RIOU is in the process of digitising a multitude of best-practice operational documents from Sochi 2014. These will soon be made accessible to our researchers and students.
But to judge us on where we are now, you should look at the success of our graduates in the employment market. I am very proud that all our MSA alumni have found excellent jobs with National Olympic Committees, sports federations and major financial companies since graduating. Others have even started their own business in the sports industry.
Q: How many students are currently enrolled in the MSA programme and from which countries do they come?
A: Currently, there are around 80 students in total studying on the English language and Russian language MSA course and on individual academic pathways. Students in the English language class hail from 12 countries: Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Ireland, Moldova, Panama, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine and Vanuatu. This year’s intake includes Catherine O’Grady (Ireland), a kickboxing world champion; Ma Changyu (China), multiple champion at national winter games in short-track speed skating; marathon runner Kalke Prath Parfull (India);Irina Boiko, a Master of Sports in rhythmic gymnastics (Ukraine); and chief sports news editor for the OPAP TV channel Nikoletopoulou Ira Zafeira (Greece).
Q: RIOU is generous in granting scholarships via the Vladimir Potanin Foundation - what kind of applicants are you hopeful of attracting?
A: Vladimir Potanin has been involved in charity work for over 20 years supporting culture and education projects. His Foundation runs a special Olympic Scholarship programme that annually provides 20 grants for people to study at RIOU. In assessing the candidates, the Expert Committee of the Foundation looks at their professional experience, commitment to volunteer work, academic ability, English language proficiency, leadership skills, motivation, initiative and enthusiasm.
The Foundation is now welcoming applications for the next academic year. As always, we are hoping to attract energetic and ambitious young people, who have a clear idea of what kind of career they want to pursue. But they do not necessarily require a CV boasting extensive experience in sport administration.