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No. 1 Sochi 2014 Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies

Sochi 2014 was a stunning success, exceeding all expectations. At the
Closing Ceremony on 16 March, International Paralympic Committee (IPC)
President Sir Philip Craven described them as the best ever, which is
why, after a countdown which started on 12 November, the Sochi 2014
Paralympic Winter Games have been chosen as No.1 in the IPC’s Top 50
Moments of 2014. Nearly 550 athletes from a record 45 countries arrived
to the Games as the best prepared ever, and they did not disappoint.
Few will forget the stand-out performances of Russia’s Roman Petushkov
winning a record six Nordic skiing golds, or Anna Schaffelhuber, the
German sit skier, winning five gold medals from five events. In a Games
of many highlights, one of the best was the vocal crowds and packed
venues that became a trademark of Sochi 2014. A record 316,200 tickets
were sold, a figure that was almost 40 per cent higher than had been
achieved at Vancouver 2010. Traditionally, Russian spectators only
cheer their own athletes. But they were quickly infected by the
Paralympic Spirit, supporting and celebrating the performances of every
single athlete. This unified support climaxed on the final night of
competition, when Russia met USA in the ice sledge hockey gold medal
match. The crowd were delirious in their support of the Russian team.
What was most impressive, however, was their reaction at the end of the
game, when they stayed to cheer all three medal-winning teams. The
support was for the sport and the athletes. It did not matter which
country they represented; everyone was a hero. The Russia-USA match
also marked one of the most historic moments in Paralympic broadcasting
history: it was the first time any US gold medal success had been shown
live on NBC. The Games also received more coverage than ever before,
with TV pictures shown on 125 channels in 55 countries. Consequently,
the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games were the most watched in
history, attracting a global cumulative audience of 2.1 billion people.
“Sochi 2014 broke all ticket and TV viewing records and the blueprint
that was created in terms of accessibility in Sochi is now being rolled
out across Russia,” said Sir Philip Craven. “The performances of the
para-athletes were mesmerising; they continue to astound not just
myself with what they can achieve but millions of others around the
world.” Arguably the biggest impact Sochi 2014 had was on the Russian
government and Russian society. Speaking in early December, Dimitry
Chernyshenko, the Sochi 2014 President and CEO, said: “The Sochi 2014
Paralympic Winter Games have reinforced Russia’s commitment to social
advancement. In preparation for the Games and Sochi’s continued
development into a world class tourist destination, we set new
standards for urban planning and development to improve the lives of
people with a disability in Sochi and across the nation.” In 1980 the
old USSR declined the opportunity to stage the Paralympics because they
said the country had nobody with an impairment. Thirty years on, and
the attitude could not have been more different. The driver behind this
change was the Games. Sochi’s election as host city in 2007 led – for
the first time – to Russian authorities and society paying attention to
the issue of inclusion, and creating accessible environments for all.
New legislation was passed at the highest levels of Government, and the
Sochi 2014 Organising Committee created a barrier-free infrastructure,
ensuring that everything built for the Games was accessible for all.
Sochi is now a blueprint for the rest of Russia, with 200 cities
already using what was created for the Games as a guide for furthering
their own accessibility. The lives of millions of Russians will be
permanently improved and enriched. Since the conclusion of the Games,
Sochi’s sporting legacy has lived on. It has staged its first ever F1
race, a Federations Cup tennis match and in 2015 will stage the IWAS
World Games and the annual SportAccord Convention.
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