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Jacksonville scores official visit by Russian sports authorities
November 4, 2004

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC — Four Russian sports officials — including a former national boxing champion — arrive in Jacksonville on Nov. 5 for a weeklong Open World Program exchange focusing on the city’s youth sports programs. The Russians are especially interested in sharing strategies for using sports to promote healthy lifestyles and character development, a goal heartily embraced by sports advocates in the United States as well.

Managed by the congressionally sponsored Open World Leadership Center, Open World enables emerging political and civic leaders from Russia and other participating countries to observe U.S. democratic and social institutions in action, while building ties with their American peers. The International Visitor Corps of Jacksonville (IVCJ) has organized the upcoming Florida exchange for Open World.

The Russians’ professional agenda kicks off Nov. 8 with an all-day program at the University of North Florida featuring an interactive program on sports marketing, health promotion, and recreation management. Later in the week the delegates will visit one of the premier venues for American-style football: Alltel Stadium, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. While there, the Russians will hear from team officials, the head of the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation, and local representatives of the Pop Warner Leagues and the NFL’s Play It Smart Program about their youth programs. Other highlights include a visit with children learning tennis and life skills through retired tennis champion MaliVai Washington’s Kids Foundation; meetings and tours at the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, and the Boys and Girls Club; and a briefing on the Duval County schools’ anti-drug programs.

Jacksonville’s Open World visitors represent a range of Russian regions and sports interests. Onetime Russian national boxing champion Sergey Bibikov today fights youth crime and drug abuse in the Volga River city of Togliatti by encouraging young people there to take up his sport. A recipient of the “master of sports” title, the highest honor given to athletes in the former Soviet Union, Mr. Bibikov serves as president of the Togliatti Boxing Federation and vice president of a regional boxing federation. City official Andrey Gorbachev is the deputy head of the Youth Policy Department of Omsk, in southwestern Siberia. Among his many responsibilities are organizing sporting events for the city’s youth.

Ivan Vorotkov left a 10-year business career to devote himself to encouraging physical fitness and healthy lifestyles among youth in the Siberian city of Irkutsk. Mr. Vorotkov teaches high school phys ed, runs summer camps, and heads the Baikal Frisbee League. Rinat Yusupov is the founder/manager of the first private athletic club in Kazan, the capital of the Tatarstan republic in central Russia. He also teaches sports management at Kazan State Technical University, serves as deputy chair of the Eastern Martial Arts Association, and works as a professional boxing manager.

IVCJ Executive Director Sondie Frus has coordinated the professional program and arranged homestays with local residents, who will introduce the Russian delegates to American family and community life. IVCJ is the local partner of the nonprofit Meridian International Center, which has been awarded a grant by the Open World Leadership Center to administer this and similar exchanges in 2004. Meridian promotes international understanding through the exchange of people, ideas, and the arts.

The Open World Program is a unique, nonpartisan initiative of the U.S. Congress designed to build mutual understanding between the United States and participating countries. The program also exposes visitors to ideas and practices that they can adapt for use in their own organizations. More than 8,000 Russian Open World participants from all of the country’s 89 regions have visited all 50 U.S. states since the program’s inception. Open World also recently initiated pilot exchanges with Lithuania, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Open World delegates range from members of parliament to mayors, from innovative nonprofit directors to experienced journalists, and from political party activists to regional administrators. The program’s administering agency, the Open World Leadership Center, is an independent legislative branch entity with offices at the Library of Congress.

For more information on the Jacksonville trip, please contact Sondie Frus at 904-346-3941 or George Felcyn at The PBN Company at 202-466-6210. For more information on the Open World Program, please visit