President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good evening,
Moscow is celebrating International Paralympic Day today. It is particularly pleasing that this occasion coincides with an important state date in Russia. For those who do not remember, I remind you that today we mark Constitution Day. International Paralympic Day is a big event in the paralympic movement and an occasion of great social and humanitarian significance.
I know that all of you here have been actively involved in preparing today’s event. I want to thank everyone who took part in this work, and thank the event’s initiators, above all the International Paralympic Committee’s Honorary Board. I also want to congratulate Mr Philip Craven on his re-election to the post of President of the International Paralympic Committee.
Russia has and will continue to support all of the paralympic traditions and all new ideas and IPC initiatives aimed at promoting sporting life, sporting successes and a healthy way of life for all.
The paralympic athletes’ courage, personal example and willpower encourage more and more people to take up sport: people with disabilities, and people getting involved in conventional sport.
I think the holding of International Paralympic Day in our country will further contribute to this, because this is the first time ever that this unique event is taking place in Moscow rather than Berlin, and in winter rather than summer. We have real winter weather today. When I left the house before, it was minus eight degrees – real Russian winter weather. I think this is symbolic in its way too.
Moscow is also involved in developing all different aspects of the Olympic and Paralympic traditions. All sorts of events have been taking place in Moscow and around the country as part of Equal Opportunities Year that we are marking in 2009. The third Moscow Paralympics took place just recently, and was a good event.
Of course the 2014 Sochi Paralympics offer our country a real opportunity. We are in the process of building a world class international sports centre in Sochi. We are also building a modern mountain resort that will meet all safety standards, modern environmental standards, and international living standards in general.
We have a duty to ensure barrier-free access for people with disabilities to all of the Olympic events, sports and recreation facilities and other sites in Sochi.
I hope that the Sochi Paralympics will tear down the barriers in our minds (we still have quite a few of them) and help to affirm the values enshrined in the main international conventions, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Russia has adopted a special programme – the Strategy for Developing Physical Culture and Sport through to 2020. This programme places particular emphasis on sports for people with disabilities. I hope that the programme’s implementation which is already underway will increase the number of people practising sports, including people with disabilities, and spread paralympic sport in our country.
Of course, it makes me especially happy to say that our country’s paralympic athletes have demonstrated their great skill on numerous occasions. Some of you here today were present too at the recent meeting with athletes following the Paralympics in Beijing, and today the Paralympics Committee’s traditional award ceremony took place.
I want to welcome the laureates present here today and congratulate you all once more. I sincerely wish you success, including sports successes, and good health.
Of course I, like all Russian supporters and all citizens of our country, hope that our paralympic athletes will show us their skill again at the Paralympics in Vancouver, London, and of course in Sochi, which is particularly important for us. We will be giving you our every support and sharing the moments with you. We hope very much for your victory and hope for the triumph of the Olympic and Paralympic ideals.
I congratulate everyone on the upcoming New Year and wish you all good health, happiness, success and great sporting achievements. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you here. I hope you will have the chance to rest a bit too today. I wish you all the best of moods, and say once more how pleased I am that we have this meeting.