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Russian Supermodel Propels Sochi Paralympics to Record Sales

Published: March 12, 2014 (Issue # 1801)



  • Natalia Vodianova has helped the Paralympics Games be the first to break the barrier of 300,000 tickets sold, 20 percent more than the previous record set by Vancouver 2010.
    Photo: Vladmir Astapkovich / © RIA Novosti

With her willowy figure and smouldering stare, supermodel Natalia Vodianova is the epitome of modern beauty for many in her native Russia. But what if she had a prosthetic leg?

That was just one of the probing questions Paralympic organizers have asked of Russians, challenging assumptions in a country where disabled people are often on the margins of society, as "invalids" rather than as protagonists in their own lives.

Related: Sochi Paralympics Herald Sea Change for Russia’s Disabled – IPC

Education programs in the run-up to the Paralympics have emphasized the similarities between disabled people and the rest of society and presented them as athletes to be respected rather than victims to be pitied.

The strategy seems to have paid off: On Tuesday, organizers announced the March 7-16 Games are the first to break the barrier of 300,000 tickets sold, 20 percent more than the previous record set by Vancouver 2010.

“We had to educate a lot of people in the Paralympic Games and the Paralympic values,” Sochi 2014 organizing committee vice-president Alexandra Kosterina said.

Related: Paralympics Put Focus on Russia’s Disabled

“Natalia Vodianova, she is an ambassador for the Paralympic Games and she invested a lot of her time, a lot of her energy in promoting Paralympic values and the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games.”

Vodianova, 32, was the face of the Games in one of the advertisements created by organizers, staring into the camera as various Winter Paralympians are shown competing. At the end of the clip, the camera pans out to show Vodianova with an athlete’s carbon-fiber prosthetic leg, an image apparently achieved with the aid of computer trickery.

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