March 3, 2014 (ISN) – International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven arrived in Sochi, Russia, in the early hours of Tuesday (4 March) morning ready for the Paralympic Winter Games which get underway on Friday (7 March).
Upon arrival Sir Philip was met by Sochi 2014 volunteers and Sochi 2014 Organising Committee President Dimitry Chernyshenko.
Sochi 2014 will be Sir Philip’s fourth and final Paralympic Winter Games as IPC President and the five-time Paralympian in wheelchair basketball is eagerly looking forward to the start of the Games.
Sir Philip said: “I’ve only been here a few hours but already you can sense the excitement and anticipation for the start of the Games.
“At each edition of the Games the standard of competition gets better and better because of the athletes, the Paralympic Winter sports and the efforts of the National Paralympic Committees. 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.
“The IPC ‘s role in Sochi is to organise, together with the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee, the best ever Paralympic Winter Games for the athletes who have spent years of their lives training to get here.
“We’re fully aware of what is going on elsewhere and will leave global politics to the politicians.
“We’re monitoring the situation closely and the safety and well-being of athletes and officials is our top priority.
“Final preparations are on track ahead of Friday’s Opening Ceremony and we are confident of a great Games here in Sochi.”
So far 39 of the 45 competing nations have arrived in Sochi, with the remaining six countries expected to arrive by Thursday lunchtime.
Sir Philip’s first Winter Games following his election as IPC President in 2001 were the Salt Lake City 2002 Games. Of all the Winter Games he has attended since, he believes Sochi 2014 has the potential to make the biggest impact in the host country.
“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,” Sir Philip said.
“Back in 1980, the Paralympic Games were not held in Moscow because the old USSR government said they had no people with an impairment in their country. 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.
“Once the sport starts and people see the amazing feats of endeavour performed by the athletes on snow and on ice, I expect attitudes in this country towards people with an impairment to change for the better too. We have seen it at previous Games and I expect Russia to be no different.
“The Paralympics can break down barriers and stereotypes like no other event and I believe these Games will be transformational for Russia. With a record global TV audience expected to watch the Games, I am confident they can also have a wider global impact,” he added.
On Wednesday (5 March) morning Sir Philip will chair a meeting of the IPC Governing Board, the first time the board has met fully since its election last November in Athens, Greece.
Later in the evening he will speak at the Paralympic Flame Lighting Ceremony in Rosa Khutor.
Thursday (6 March) morning will see him open the Paralympic Wall in the Coastal Village before he takes part in the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Torch Relay.
The volunteers who met Sir Philip at Sochi Airport were just a handful of the 8,000 volunteers who are ready for Russia’s first ever Paralympic Winter Games. Around 7,000 of the volunteers originate from hundreds of Russian cities, with 400 travelling from 60 countries around the world to volunteer in Sochi. The team includes many volunteers with an impairment who will be working at the Games. The volunteer team is young and energetic, with an average age of only 25. Many of them have received dedicated training on best practice to support Paralympic athletes and will be a very important part the team to ensure the athletes enjoy the best Games possible.