Interview before the Sochi Paralympics 2014-03-05 06:00:00 Vladimir Putin answered questions from Channel One, Rossiya-1, NTV, and RBC TV journalists. Sergey Brilev (ROSSIYA-1): Mr President, we are surrounded here by screens showing competitions from past Paralympics. In just a few days’ time, these broadcasts will show our logos – the logos of the VGTRK [National State Television and Radio Company] channels and of Alexander’s RBC (General Partner). Alexander Lyubimov (RBC TV): RBC is a private channel. We also decided to support the event. I think it is important that among the country’s elite, politicians and businesspeople we should promote… President of Russia Vladimir Putin: It seems to me that I already tried to praise you once. Sergey Brilev: We are starting these broadcasts and are counting down the last days and hours now before the Paralympics’ opening. It would be strange to compare the Paralympics and the Olympics, and to ask which is better would simply not be the right question. But what are your hopes for the Paralympics, which are the logical continuation of the Olympics? Vladimir Putin: I agree with what you just said: the Paralympics are the logical continuation of the Olympics. If we look back at history, we see that the first forerunner to what became the Paralympics took place in 1948, in Britain I think it was. Most of the people taking part in those competitions were people in wheelchairs as a result of injuries suffered during World War II. This gradually grew into the Paralympic movement. I think the first actual Paralympic Games were held in 1960, and the first Winter Paralympics took place in 1976, if I remember correctly. In this sense, the Paralympics are certainly a logical continuation of the Olympics. What hopes do I have for these Games? I have great hopes, first of all because the Paralympics have been attracting an ever bigger audience over recent years. We think it is important that more and more people see the limitless possibilities of our athletes with disabilities. This gives the public the right kind of education and it also encourages officials at all levels to create a barrier-free environment. Sergey Brilev: Not just in sports, but in general. Vladimir Putin: Not just in sports, but everywhere. It reminds me of the problems. Incidentally, here in Sochi, this is probably the first time that we have implemented a comprehensive programme to create a barrier-free environment in Russia. And I very much count on the regions to engage in consistent work to create the same kind of barrier-free environment across our nation. We signed a corresponding international convention and we have national programmes, but this requires constant attention on the part of authorities at all levels. And the most important issue: what are the expectations? The expectations are that our Paralympians will also outperform. Sergey Brilev: In other words, you are not playing it safe this time, after the triumph of the Olympics? Vladimir Putin: No, I am being cautious. I am not saying how many victories we will have, and what kind. We are, of course, looking forward to victories, especially since we know what our Paralympians can achieve. At the previous Paralympic Games, as you know, our team was among the leaders, at the top. And chief executives of the International Paralympic Committee say it straight that they expect the most brilliant performances from the Russian Paralympians. We do, too. Irada Zeynalova (CHANNEL ONE): Mr President, at our meeting before the Olympics, you said that nobody cancelled your work schedule as far as politics are concerned, but you will try to find the time to attend all the events you can, if you have free time. And we were constantly seeing you in the bleachers, watching hockey and figure skating. Now, will you be attending the Paralympic competitions? Vladimir Putin: Yes, I would very much like to. Just now, they were showing ice sledge hockey here on the screen. You know, I have gotten into it recently; look at the passion there, the heat of competition – it is no less intense than at the Olympic Games. I would, of course, be happy to watch it, but for now I don’t know the schedule for the athletic competitions. Naturally, I will attend the opening. The cross-country skiing competitions are very interesting. You know, when the Paralympians perform in alpine skiing, it is absolutely amazing; this is pure art. I just don’t know right now, I cannot say which events I will be able to attend, but I would very much like to. Irada Zeynalova: And will you be watching the competitions you cannot attend, like ice sledge hockey, on TV? Vladimir Putin: I tried to watch the Olympics on television and, of course, I will be watching the Paralympics. Kirill Kiknadze (NTV): Mr President, on a moral level, the event that is coming up is, probably, no less important than the events that have passed. We will have people coming here for whom sports are not just a part of life, but something more – sometimes, they depend on what they are doing, they depend on their athletic achievements. They are grateful to sports for that. I would like to know: there were 112 candidates for the national team, and 64 will be going. What would you like to say to the people who are left behind? Vladimir Putin: You know, I don’t think that they need any sort of recommendations; everyone who was a candidate for the Paralympic national team – these are all outstanding athletes. This means that they are people with strong character. And here, I am certain that they do not need consolation. I have no doubt that they will continue to work and refine their skills; they will take part in other competitions and, if their age allows it, will fight to make it onto Russia’s Paralympic national team and perform admirably. They just need to work, and I’m certain that is what will happen. Alexander Lyubimov: They truly are people of not just unlimited but limitless capabilities. In fact, we have started promoting the Paralympic Games specifically because, I think, these people are an example for all of us – of incredible bravery and strength of character. So we will demonstrate it. The only thing, I think – I don’t know, maybe it’s like that in all nations… You are saying that after 1948, the movement started to gradually grow. In our country, the attitudes are not very impressive. We need people to watch this more on our channel, on Rossiya 2, so that they can feel that there are three million people with disabilities in our nation, who can be employed, whom we can help. It’s just that we often pass by these people in the streets… We have a problem with this in our nation; there are not enough promotion campaigns for good deeds. Vladimir Putin: I agree. Here, a lot depends on all of us and on the media, especially electronic. There are people among you who regularly cover sports events; others focus on other areas, but you all know that sports-casting – especially on television – is a unique activity where it is extremely important to reflect the heat of competition, the beauty of movement, and endurance and stamina of an athlete. All this requires a high degree of professionalism. It is not enough to merely show a good camera shot of a jump, or say, a hockey match, or someone skating or racing down a slope. It is a special art to be able to demonstrate the beauty of sports, and the beauty of Paralympic sports is much more difficult to demonstrate. Therefore, the efficiency of our propaganda will largely depend on those who do this work. The state of course bears the main responsibility here, but we cannot do without your professional efforts and support. Irada Zeynalova: Mr President, the ratings of broadcasts from the Olympic Games, at least those on Chanel One, were fantastic. People wanted to see the Games, because they brought the energy, the feeling of joy and festivity that we all need. As for the Paralympics, how do we change the attitude of society to people who have found themselves in this situation? These are truly superhumans with limitless capabilities. How do we influence society so that the festival does not end after the Paralympics, so that people care for those who live a completely different life? Vladimir Putin: The state should do more for people with disabilities. We should create a barrier-free environment for them everywhere, all over the country. The key issue here is to create jobs for them. I will not go into detail regarding what the state is doing to encourage businesses that create jobs for the disabled. We create special conditions for such enterprises, but these are few and it is definitely not enough. Therefore our goal here – you put it correctly, I fully agree with you – is to make sure that after the Paralympics the people and the authorities at all levels do not forget about this. It also means that state policy should follow in the same direction, there should be special programs, which the media should support. And if you see that some government agencies, municipal or federal authorities at any level are not up to standards (there is no need to tell you how – this is your favourite part) you should point out such drawbacks. Sergey Brilev: Mr President, I believe that during the Olympics a majority of Russians supported not only our champions and medallists (whom you have already presented with state decoration) but also athletes from neighbouring states. I saw myself – which pleased me a lot – the warm welcome they gave to the athletes from Georgia: there was a figure skater and downhill skiers. Everybody supported [Darya] Domracheva from Belarus; Russians gave a very warm welcome to the successful women’s biathlon team from Ukraine. It is no secret that many Russians gave equal support to both Russian athletes and to our brotherly neighbours. How do you define the notion ‘our people’ yourself? Whom do you support, apart from the Russian athletes? Vladimir Putin: I believe that when we are hosting some major sports event, all our guests are our people. Primarily this applies to our own athletes, but to all our guests as well. For us everyone should be equal.