Russian athletes were given an extra incentive to go for Olympic gold Saturday, when the country's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told them he had doubled the prize money for those who did so to 100,000 euros ($150,000).
The rewards for silver and bronze medal winners had also been increased to 60,000 and 40,000 euros, respectively, Putin told the delegation at the Olympic Village, the Russian Information Agency reported.
However, Putin was quick to add that for athletes, performing to the best of their abilities and making their fans and their motherland proud were far more important than cash prizes.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin poses with members of the Russian delegation during his visit to the Olympic Village in Beijing August 9 2008. [Agencies]
"All the conditions are right for the Russian team to repeat its record tally" of 29 gold medals achieved at the Athens Games, he said.
The prime minister, who has a black belt in judo, said that winning medals was not only about hard work, but also about luck.
"So, on behalf of millions of sports fans, I wish you all good luck," he told the athletes.
The Russian team includes 467 athletes, the third largest after the home nation and the United States. They are based at four apartment buildings in the Olympic Village.
Putin looked relaxed and was casually dressed for his visit to the village. While there, he took a tour of the compound in an electric cart, which he drove himself.
However, his visit to Beijing has not been all about sports and fun.
The military clash between Russia and Georgia has emerged as a thorny issue, as Olympians from both countries take to the world stage.
During a meeting on Friday, Putin briefed his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on the situation, Russian media reported.
Wen called on all parties involved to practice restraint and strive to resolve the issue through political and diplomatic channels.
Putin also "discussed the situation" with US President George W. Bush on Friday, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, without elaborating.
A TV broadcast showed Bush and Putin chatting on Friday, ahead of a luncheon hosted by President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People.
Also Saturday, Putin attended a luncheon held in his honor at Zhongnanhai, the offices of China's central government.
Putin congratulated Hu for China's "huge success" in organizing the "magnificent and gorgeous" opening ceremony.
Over the many years of working together, the two leaders have forged a good friendship, Putin said.
Also Saturday, Putin visited former President Jiang Zemin, with whom he signed the Sino-Russian Good-Neighborly Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in Moscow in 2001.
Putin reminded Jiang that the decision, made in 2001, to award the 2008 Olympics to Beijing was made by the International Olympic Committee in Moscow.
It was fair recognition of the economic, social and sporting achievements China has made, he said.