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  • Ukraine Makes Statement at Paralympics Opening Ceremony


    Russian Federation delegation (ATR)
    (ATR) Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin declared open the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium on an evening where much of the talk was regarding Ukraine’s decision not to boycott the Games.

    Forty-four flagbearers led their athletes during the parade of nations. However, the delegation from Ukraine only sent out a symbolic, solitary athlete, skier Mykailo Tkachenko, who carried the country’s flag from his wheelchair.

    Tkachenko was solemn-faced and showed very little emotion while receiving an enthusiastic ovation from the crowd.

    The remainder of the Ukrainian para-athletes were present, 23 in total, watching the proceedings from their designated seats on the stadium floor.

    Prior to inviting the Russian president to open the Paralympics, while noting that “these are Games where sport must be the winner,” International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven addressed the near-capacity crowd on a festive and colorful evening.

    “Tonight is a very special occasion. Tonight is proof that what might not seem possible, is possible,” Craven said.

    Ukraine's delegations sits and watches Parade of Nations (ATR)
    Craven alluded to thirty-four years ago when the Soviet Union declined the opportunity to stage the 1980 Paralympic Games in Moscow, stating that “dreams do come true” and “the biggest transformation for this country is still to come.”

    Directly addressing the athletes, Craven said, “Together, you are the catalysts for change. You have the ability to change perceptions and alter attitudes like no other.

    “You will leave as role models, heroes, pioneers, and most of all proud Paralympians,” said the IPC leader.

    Craven thanked Putin and Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak as well as Sochi 2014 president Dmitry Chernyshenko and the numerous volunteers.

    He also welcomed IOC resident Thomas Bach to his first Paralympic Winter Games in his current position as well as his predecessor Jacques Rogge, both of whom attended the ceremony as guests.

    Chernyshenko also spoke to the audience, in his native Russian.

    “The stage is
    The Paralympics Opening Ceremony (ATR)
    set,” Chernyshenko said. “It’s time for the athletes to come to the front. It is time for the athletes to break down barriers, both on and off the field of play.

    “This is the beginning of a lasting legacy – a lasting legacy for Sochi; for Russia; for the world”

    One of the highlights of the ceremony was the enormous “Ice Breaker of Peace” ship which moved across the stadium through what appeared to be blocks of ice, symbolizing breaking down perceptions and barriers, while tracing new paths for mankind.

    Concluding the ceremony, Paralympic swimming champion Oleysa Vladykina and six-time Paralympic cross-country skiing champion Sergei Shilov carried the torch to the small cauldron outside the stadium. Lighting it together, the duo triggered the flame in the main cauldron of Sochi Olympic Park as Tchaykovsky’s Symphony #5 played.

    Homepage Photo: Getty Images

    Written by Brian Pinelli

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