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MOSCOW, March 04. /ITAR-TASS/. President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Philip Craven has arrived in Russia’s Sochi ahead of the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games, which kick off in the Black sea resort city with an opening ceremony on Friday, the IPC official website reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, Craven arrived in Sochi in the early hours of Tuesday and was greeted by volunteers and President of the 2014 Sochi Organizing Committee Dmitry Chernyshenko.
“I’ve only been here a few hours but already you can sense the excitement and anticipation for the start of the Games,” Craven, the five-time British Paralympian in wheelchair basketball between 1972 and 1988, was quoted as saying.
The official said the main goal for the international committee, which he currently presides over, and the Russian organizers was to stage the best ever Winter Paralympics for athletes, “who have spent years of their lives training to get here.”
“Here in Sochi the athletes have some amazing state-of-the-art venues to compete in, and I think this will help inspire them to some fantastic achievements,” he said. “Final preparations are on track ahead of Friday’s Opening Ceremony and we are confident of a great Games here in Sochi.”
Craven, 63, was elected the IPC president in 2001 and the first Winter Paralympics he attended in his current capacity was in the United States’ Salt Lake City in 2002. After the Salt Lake City, the Winter Paralympics were held in Italy’s Turin in 2006 and in Canada’s Vancouver and Whistler in 2010.
The official said he believed the upcoming Paralympics in Sochi have the potential of huge impact on the hosting country in many terms, including in the sphere of the barrier-free environment.
“When you compare Sochi to previous Paralympic Winter Games, it’s best to look at the starting point and look ahead to what might happen,” he said.
“Back in 1980, the Paralympic Games were not held in Moscow because the old USSR government said they had no people with impairment in their country,” Craven said. “So, to be here in Sochi 34 years later for Russia’s first Paralympic Games is a huge achievement in itself and proof that things are changing here for the better.”
A total of 39 out of the 45 competing national teams have already arrived in Sochi and they have been accommodated in Paralympic villages located in the Coastal and Mountain clusters of the city.
On Wednesday, Craven is scheduled to chair a meeting of the IPC Governing Board and the next day he will attend the traditional opening of the Paralympic Wall in the Coastal cluster and then take part in the Paralympic torch relay.
The group of volunteers, who met Craven on Tuesday morning, is part of an overall of some 8,000 volunteers, who will be serving the XI Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi.
The team of volunteers has around 7,000 people from hundreds of Russian cities and towns, over 400 coming from 60 countries outside Russia, while dozens of volunteers are with disability. The average age of volunteers stands at 25.
The majority of volunteers already have experience in serving sports events for people with disabilities. They underwent training courses in volunteer centers at the Sholokhov Moscow State University for Humanities and the Russian State Social University in Moscow. Most of them worked at the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in London as well as at the test Paralympics in Sochi during the 2012-2013 season.
The recruitment of volunteers was based on contests, which were held at 26 Volunteer Centers set up with higher education institutions across Russia. The eligible age of volunteers stands between 18 and 80 years.