UFA, March 03. /ITAR-TASS/. With four days remaining before the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, the bowl of the Paralympics flame was lit in Ufa, the capital of Russia’s republic of Bashkortostan on the Volga River.
The Paralympic flame was lit by Yury Akshentsov, a multiple medalist of the Russian and European judo championships and the chairman of the All-Russian Association of the Blind (VOS) branch in Bashkortostan, and Rustem Khamitov, the head of the republic.
“We witness a historic event today,” Akshentsov said. “I am sure that the Paralympic Games will boost the development of the youth sports in Bashkortostan.
“The Olympic Games were concluded just recently and the baton is passed to the Paralympic Games,” the athlete said during the official ceremony. “We have a strong team and outstanding athletes with unique spirit.”
A total of 51 torchbearers carried the Paralympic flame along the five kilometers (3.1 miles) route in central Ufa with each of them covering a distance of 89 meters (over 290 feet). The torchbearers included people with disabilities, coaches, sports amateurs and others.
The first torchbearer to start on Monday the Paralympic flame relay in Ufa was visually impaired Svetlana Ganiyeva, who is a multiple medalist of Russian judo championships.
“I want to thank the administration of the republic and the organizers [of the torch relay] for giving us such holiday,” she said before carrying the flame. “I am sure that our athletes will be ahead of everyone and we will win most of the medals.”
The Paralympic flame is lit simultaneously in several Russia cities every day. The torch relay is set to finish at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi on March 7, the day of the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games opening.
On Saturday, the 2014 Sochi Paralympics cauldron was lit in the British city of Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, which is considered to be the birthplace of the Paralympic movement.
This was the first time when the Paralympic torch relay was held outside the hosting country and such decision was made by the leadership of the International Paralympic Committee in August last year.
Beginning from 2014, the torch relay phase will become an indispensable part of all Paralympic Flame relays.
Sports competitions held in Stoke Mandeville in 1948 for people with disabilities inspired the first Paralympic Games, which took place in Italy’s Rome in 1960. The Stoke Mandeville competitions were organized by Lugwig Guttmans, a physician from Germany, who specialized in treatment of patients with disabilities.