SOCHI, March 20 (R-Sport) - The head of the Russian Paralympic Committee said Wednesday the country’s sports fans must be educated to view next year’s Paralympics in Sochi as real sport rather than a “charity drive.”
The Paralympics will be the first to be held in Russia, which performs consistently strongly in many Paralympic sports but has historically given disabled sports a low media profile.
“Obviously we need to work with the fans, and the programs the organizing committee have are oriented towards telling spectators that this is what Paralympic sport is, so people come with the understanding that this really is sport and not some charity drive for people with disabilities,” Paralympic Committee head Mikhail Terentiev said.
Terentiev said spectators disturbed blind athletes by shouting during their Sochi test events for cross-country skiing and biathlon, adding that it was a common problem at Winter Paralympics. Blind athletes use aural cues from a sighted athlete to direct themselves and can be easily disturbed by high noise levels.
“There was this problem at Salt Lake City, and in Turin and in Vancouver, when visually impaired athletes were skiing in competition,” he said.
“You need to attract not just spectators to fill the stands, but precisely those who understand how they need to behave, so that there isn’t the sort of situation when an athlete skis and instead of giving him the chance to hear the leader, the fans clap and shout.”
The Paralympics will be held from March 7 to 16 next year.