President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
I am very happy to welcome you to Russia, to the hospitable city of Sochi, which is hosting the opening of the XI Paralympic Games today.
Our nation is hosting this prestigious event for the first time and, as I hope you have already seen, we have tried to do everything we can to create the best possible conditions for you and the athletes.
I want to stress the special role of the International Paralympic Committee in preparing for the Paralympic Games and thank its President, Sir Philip Craven, as well as all the curators and participants in our common Paralympic project, for their active cooperation and assistance.
We value the good relations and complete mutual understanding we have built with you over these years of working together, and naturally, count on them to become a good, solid foundation for our joint activities in the future.
We believe the legacy of the Paralympic Games in Russia, in Sochi, will promote the development of the Paralympic movement overall and help attract many individuals with disabilities to sports and active integration in society.
Greater Sochi is fully prepared to host the Games, and thanks to our common efforts, it has become a worthy example of implementing the principles of a barrier-free environment and setting new standards in urban planning that take into account all the needs of people with disabilities.
The International Paralympic Committee President and I have just toured several facilities. He said, “Yes, it’s very good here, but you have a lot of work ahead throughout the entire country.” I must say this is true: an enormous amount of work still needs to be done throughout the entire nation. The Paralympics will certainly provide great momentum for the development of adaptive sports in Russia, first and foremost among young people.
The government’s increased attention in this area is starting to garner results. The number of people regularly engaging in sports and fitness is constantly growing, and the courageous Paralympians’ example will become a very serious, powerful additional impetus for them.
I have no doubt that the Paralympic Games in Sochi, which will include 1,600 participating athletes and delegation members from over 40 countries around the world, will be just as interesting to spectators and sports fans as the Olympics. We have already sold more tickets to the opening of the Paralympics than the opening of the Olympic Games.
We all understand very well that the Paralympians’ athletic competitions are not just an unbelievably captivating, amazing display. They are, first and foremost, clear evidence of the heights that individuals can achieve, even when they find themselves in difficult life circumstances. It is an affirmation that real strength lies in a person’s character, dedication and positive attitude.
I want to once again thank everyone who participated in preparations for these competitions, for your active assistance and support. I hope that your visit to Russia will leave you with very happy, warm memories and feelings, and that the upcoming Games will provide us with many thrilling, memorable, exciting events.