President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, my friends.
You know that less than a month ago I had a meeting with our Olympic team before its departure for the Winter Games in Beijing. The games ended yesterday, and we have begun the countdown to the next landmark sports festival, the Paralympic Winter Games.
It is a unique event in terms of its inspiring power and the positive emotions stirred in us by our Paralympic athletes.
Every time we see you perform and listen to your success stories, we admire the strong will and the grit it takes not just to overcome your health problems but also to gain a new foothold and a new meaning in life through high performance sports.
Therefore, first of all, I would like to thank you and your teammates for making this choice, for your commitment to sport and for your fortitude, resolve and ability to hold up well, which gives confidence and hope to millions of people, making it possible to expand the boundaries of what is possible.
Also, I would like to congratulate you on being chosen for the Russian Paralympic team. Representing one’s country at these competitions is a pinnacle and a coveted dream for any athlete. You have conquered this pinnacle, and there is only one last leap to the potential triumph, the Paralympic medal podium. It is the focal point of years of hard work to gain experience and mastery, of your sporting career.
The Beijing Paralympic Games are not the first Paralympics for some members of our team, and your resolve to press ahead despite your past achievements, to keep training and to scale new heights commands our deep respect.
This ongoing quest for excellence is one of the main traits of Paralympic athletes. You have a deep understanding of the great value of humanism, human dignity and equal opportunities. It is not surprising that the Paralympic Games are noted for a special, exceptionally kind atmosphere. It is created by your warm hearts, mutual support, sincerity and openness.
The Paralympic lesson of empathy, equality and fairness is important today more than ever. The world urgently needs the powerful uniting force of sport, the noble principles of competition, your positive energy and proactiveness that transform society and teach moral maturity to people, especially young people.
I am certain that the upcoming games will contribute to strengthening friendship and mutual understanding, and Paralympians, with their strong spirit, will not only impress their fans with spectacular performances and setting new records but will also help them to realise what is really important and significant in life.
I know that you are still at training facilities, preparing to step out into the arenas and onto the tracks of Beijing. Your mentors, coaches, medical professionals and other staff are constantly working hard next to you.
I would like to address them and express gratitude for their tireless efforts to take care of our remarkable talented athletes, for their top professionalism and sincere love for their jobs and their charges. The success of these athletes in competitions and the fact that they have been selected for the national team is, to a large extent, your achievement.
I am glad to have this opportunity to wish a happy birthday to one of your colleagues, Alexander Larionov, the coach of the Russian national sledge hockey team, who is participating in this videoconference today.
Also with us is Presidential Aide Igor Levitin, who is also celebrating his birthday today, his 70th.
Mr Larionov and Mr Levitin, please accept our sincere greetings. We wish you success and new achievements. And, of course, good health, which is particularly important these days.
Dear friends, we support each and every one of you. Therefore, I would like to ask all Paralympians to strictly comply with all the medical rules established by the Paralympic Games’ Organising Committee and our experts due to the pandemic. The Government, the Federal Medical-Biological Agency and the Russian Paralympic Committee must do their best to provide the right conditions.
I am confident that you are ready for this competition. Russian athletes have always been among the leaders of Paralympic sports. But we know very well that in sport, it is important to be mindful of the competition. Our competitors are strong and their journey to these Paralympic Games has been equally challenging. They have overcome themselves and external circumstances. They have been training just as strenuously and tirelessly. Therefore, they will be fighting tooth and nail to earn the title of the best of the best.
I believe that you are ready to meet any challenge with honesty and grace, and win, showing your strong will and your best abilities. You should know that here in Russia, everybody loves you. We are very proud of you and will be cheering you on.
I wish you great success and brilliant performances at the XIII Paralympic Games in Beijing.