Medals for... Medals
On Thursday, April 3, 2014 the POC Olympic Center in Warsaw hosted the official Sochi 2014 Olympic Gala. This time the event had an exquisitely festive character.
The Gala was honored by the presence of the President of the Republic of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski, and the Prime Minister of Poland - Donald Tusk. Among the guests were also: Minister of Sport and Tourism Andrzej Biernat and the Deputy Head of the Chancellery of the President of Poland, Minister Sławomir Rybicki.
Other guests included: Members of Parliament, representatives of several nation-wide organizations, clergy and a vast representation of the sport family, including federations, clubs and sports institutions. Sponsors and Partners of the Polish Olympic Movement, along with journalists, were also present.
Before the Gala, the first among the 25 "Oaks of Freedom" donated by State Forests National Forest Holding to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the June 1989 parliamentary elections, was planted in front of the Olympic Center building. The oak was planted by Polish Olympic medalists from Sochi, in presence of the President and the Prime Minister.
Also, prior to the opening of the Gala, medalists unveiled commemorative replicas of their medals on the "Polish Sport Wall of Fame" at the Museum of Sport and Tourism. At the same time, Heads of the POC provided the Museum with a copy of the torch which was used during the torch relay race bringing the flame from Olympia to Sochi, as well as - following an established custom - an official Polish Team outfit from the Olympics.
Polish Sochi medalists, gathered at this unusual event, received occasional gifts from Tauron Polska Energia company (one of the POC's and Team Poland Sponsors) and stamps recently issued by the Polish Post. Moreover, Kamil Stoch and Zbigniew Bródka, who won the Olympic rivalry on 15th February, received special medals sent from Chelyabinsk, containing embedded particles of a meteorite which fell in that area exactly a year earlier, on 15th February 2013.
In a formal address, President Bronisław Komorowski thanked our athletes for their wonderful fight in the Olympic arenas and for a great dose of joy which they have given their countrymen through their performances. "Medals which I am about to decorate you with are a special form of gratitude from the entire nation," added the President, subsequently decorating several former and current athletes.
Irena Kirszenstein-Szewińska received the Grand Cross of the Order of Rebirth of Poland, for outstanding merit in the development and popularization of sport and propagation of Olympism in Poland and the World.
Meanwhile, Sochi medal winners received the following distinctions: Katarzyna Bachleda-Curuś, Natalia Czerwonka, Luiza Złotkowska and Katarzyna Woźniak - the Officers’ Cross of the Order of Rebirth of Poland; Zbigniew Bródka, Kamil Stoch, coaches: Wiesław Kmiecik and Łukasz Kruczek - the Knight's Cross of the Order of Rebirth of Poland; Konrad Niedźwiedzki, Jan Szymański and coach Krzysztof Niedźwiedzki - the Silver Cross of Merit, while Witold Mazur - the Bronze Cross of Merit. Unfortunately, the gold medal winner Justyna Kowalczyk (who was ill) and her coach - Aleksander Wierietielny - couldn't attend the Gala.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk also congratulated competitors and coaches for their outstanding sports results obtained during the best ever Polish winter Olympics. "You work extremely hard to make all of us happy and for this I say: thank you," he said.
During the second part of the Gala, following brief addresses of President Kraśnicki and Minister Biernat, our Olympic medalists received financial rewards for results obtained at the Olympics. These rewards were granted by the POC Executive Board, according to regulations adopted already in December 2012, thanks to funds obtained from Sponsors.
Representative of Strategic Sponsor, Dr. Jan Kulczyk (Kulczyk Investments), and General Sponsor, Grzegorz Sołtysiński (Totalizator Sportowy - Polish Lotto), were the next to congratulate our champions.
In fact, Dr. Kulczyk prepared the gold medalists an extraordinary surprise. Kamil Stoch, Zbigniew Bródka and (in absentia) Justyna Kowalczyk received bars of gold weighing precisely 525 grams.
Their founder later explained that even though the "gold" medals awarded in Sochi weighed 531 g, each of them contained only... 6 g of the most precious metal. Therefore, Head of the Council of the Polish Olympic Committee decided this way he would compensate our Olympic champions for such "loss".
In conclusion of the Thursday Gala, it was announced that the POC and the OTCF company - owner of the 4F brand, sponsor of the Vancouver, London and Sochi Olympic outfit collections - entered into agreement in accordance to which the same brand will also accompany Polish Olympic athletes during the upcoming Olympics - the summer ones in Rio de Janeiro (2016) and winter ones in Pyeongchang (2018).
The evening program also included a few dynamic songs performed by Polish pop singer Rafał Brzozowski. After the official part, the Gala's heroes gave numerous interviews and signed numerous copies of albums entitled "Na Olimpijskim Szlaku - Sochi 2014", "Magazyn Olimpijski" and "Olimpionik", all published by the Polish Olympic Committee. The POC also prepared an English version of the album, titled On the Olympic Track - Sochi 2014 soon to be sent to several worldwide partners and friends of the POC. All Gala participants received the album’s Polish versions as well as the collection of post stamps including pictures of our champions.
Phot.: Tomasz Piechal
Translation: Piotr H. Kowalski, firstname.lastname@example.org