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Putin Opens Winter Paralympics in Sochi

Published: March 8, 2014 (Issue # 1800)



  • Fireworks at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Sochi.
    Photo: Maxim Bogodvid / RIA Novosti

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the 11th Paralympic Winter Games open Friday at a grandiose opening ceremony in Sochi.

The Games, the first to be held in Russia, will feature 547 athletes from 45 countries across nine days of competition on the Black Sea coast and in the Caucasus Mountains.

Related: Medvedev Urges Sochi Organizers 'Not to Relax' Ahead of Paralympics

I declare open the Winter Paralympic Games 2014, Sochi, Putin said.

In a statement issued by organizers, Putin added: Sochi 2014 will gather a record number of athletes representing the Paralympic movement.

And we will do everything we can to make every one of them feel at home in Russia, among close friends, so that they can show their skills, athletic character and conquer new heights.

Related: Sochi Paralympics Herald Sea Change for Russias Disabled IPC

In a lavish ceremony themed around the concepts of unity and inclusiveness, disabled performers played prominent roles as singers and dancers.

Oscar-winning animator Alexander Petrov provided regular hand-drawn interludes featuring the firebird, a magical creature from Russian fairytale, while another Oscar laureate, Mexicos Eugenio Caballero, oversaw set design.

During the parade of athletes from the competing nations, only a single flag-bearer represented the Ukrainian team, which said earlier in the day that it would not stage a boycott over unrest in its home country.

Together you are the catalysts for change. You have the ability to change perceptions and alter attitudes like no other, International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven told athletes.

You will leave as role models, heroes, pioneers and, most of all, proud Paralympians.

The ceremony ended with a vast model icebreaker cruising through the Fisht Olympic Stadium, symbolising the breaking down of barriers at the Paralympics.

The Paralympic cauldron in the park outside the stadium was lit by two Russian Paralympic icons, two-time gold medal-winning swimmer Olesya Vladykina and Sergei Shilov, a six-time gold medalist in cross-country skiing.

The Paralympics run through March 16 and feature 72 medal events in five sports, the highest number for any Winter Paralympics to date.

To date, 283,000 tickets have been sold for the Sochi Paralympics, organizers said earlier in the day. That is about 50,000 more than the Winter Games record set by Vancouver in 2010.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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