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Meeting with heads of National Paralympic Committees

March 13, 2014

Vladimir Putin met with heads of National Paralympic Committees. The meeting took place over lunch.

The President thanked the meeting participants for their active contribuition to the Winter Paralympics in Sochi. Mr Putin stressed that Russia will continue to encourage the organisation of major sports events through the International Paralympic Committee, and is ready to share its experience in holding the Paralympics with other countries.

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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President of the International Paralympic Committee, heads of the National Paralympic Committees, friends,

I am happy to welcome you all and once again thank you for your active support in holding the Winter Paralympic Games in our country, in the city of Sochi. Russia truly strived to hold this event at the highest level and for it to strengthen the spirit of the Paralympic movement and its values, not just in Russia but throughout the world.

We very much wanted the athletes, members of sport delegations and guests to feel at home in Russia’s athletic capital. We wanted all our guests to learn about our culture, Russia’s traditions, its unfailingly kind attitude toward friends and its hospitality, and I hope we have been successful.

I do not want and cannot sweep difficult issues under the rug and would like to thank everyone for the fact that the Paralympics remain unpoliticised and the complex circumstances we are all aware of have not reflected on it. And I want to assure you that Russia was not an initiator in those circumstances.

The organisation of the Games in Sochi has essentially set new, highly modern standards for holding such major competitions. What has been particularly important for us is that it has also created new standards for urban planning. Our goal was to create the most comfortable conditions possible for people with disabilities. It was important for us from the very start that our Paralympians, together with foreign experts, should participate in this planning from the very initial stages. Naturally, they know first-hand what it means to live in truly difficult circumstances, and were able to not just overcome them, but achieve success, becoming an example of uncrushable will and faith in themselves and their abilities for millions of people. They deserve our most active support and they will receive it from us.

Here in Russia, we have given the development of Paralympic sports particular attention in recent years, and as a result, more and more disabled individuals in our nation are choosing sports and regularly engaging in fitness activities.

Naturally, I hope you have noticed – it is impossible not to notice – the high level of mastery among Russian athletes. As you can imagine, I am particularly pleased to note that they have a solid lead in the overall score count and have been performing outstandingly.

This true breakthrough in the Russian Paralympic movement and Paralympic sports has become possible in part thanks to the active, fruitful cooperation of the Russian Paralympic Committee, our athletic federations of disabled individuals and their foreign colleagues. We highly value your cooperation and we want to assure all of you, dear colleagues, and you, Mr President, that Russia for its part will always support initiatives from members of the Paralympic family.

We will continue to support holding major athletic events in our country organised by the International Paralympic Committee, friendly meetings with Paralympians from various nations, and efforts to develop the Paralympic spirit in all areas, including for children and women with various disabilities, as well as athletes with particularly severe disabilities.

Naturally, we will be pleased to share our very solid experience – our experience of holding competitions of this level and rank. I am not just referring to creating transport infrastructure, logistics and the necessary athletic infrastructure, but also attracting the attention of a wider public and the media to such events.

Incidentally, the television broadcasts of the Paralympic competitions in Sochi have been some of the most extensive in the history of the Paralympic Games. This is certainly very important. The Paralympians’ courage and dignity inspire and gives hope to millions of people. Supporting the ideals of the Paralympic movement, the work that unites us all, plays an exceedingly important role in the life of Russian society and society overall.

We intend to continue participating in the Paralympic movement very actively and very much hope, Mr President, that this movement towards each other will continue. We will do all we can to support the very spirit and idea of the Paralympic movement.

Thank you very much.

International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven: President Putin, colleagues and friends from the national Paralympic committees and from the international federation, and also, colleagues in Sochi,

What a beautiful day.

I know you’ve referred to the record-breaking games here already in Sochi. And we have four days to go. These Games are definitely on course to be the most successful Paralympic Games ever. They’ve exceeded all our expectations, and I’m sure that when you do meet with the differing presidents and secretary generals from the national Paralympic committees’ table, they will confirm that to you.

Ticket sales have gone past the 300,000 mark, breaking the previous record of 235,000 in Vancouver. More media are covering these games than ever before. And as you said, Mr President, there is more TV coverage than any other Games – a record of 76 countries and 10 territories are taking TV pictures.

I’ve been asked several times in interviews, what is the most inspiring fight or moment that I’ve already experienced. Of course, it’s the performances of the athletes that are quite amazing. But even more importantly, the performances of the crowds, which have been absolutely amazing – primarily Russian spectators watching Paralympic sport for the very first time, supporting all the 45 nations as they compete and do amazing things. I know already you’ve visited the Shayba Stadium and I’m just wondering whether you might be there again later on this afternoon.

However, it’s been written down here for me, it’s termed a cauldron of noise. And so as not to make comment with regard to the United States of America, I will say for one certain match so far.

Well, this cauldron of noise was termed slightly different in London, by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson. He went to the swimming and called it a wall of noise. The very same thing is happening here. As you’ve already said, these Games will have many legacies. Transformation in the attitudes and perceptions of Russians and people all over the world. The barrier-free environment, which will then be spread to all of Russia. I would like to thank you and your deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak for your commitment for that to take place in legacy format.

And I’d like to come back finally to our national Paralympic committees and our sports. And the strength of our organisation is our members. And our members are our national Paralympic committees, our sports, our regions, and of course our friendly federations. And it’s a great, great pleasure to see so many of you here today. And on behalf of them, I would just like to thank you for what I’m sure will turn out to be a wonderful lunch and a wonderful opportunity to interact. [In Russian:] Thank you.

March 13, 2014