A closer look at "accessible" Sochi

Added On March 17, 2014

The curtain falls on the 11th Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi.
And Russia has won applause from the International Paralympic Committee, whose head said Russia and the Games had made Sochi a barrier-free city for Paralympians and for the disabled.
The Paralympic village has paid huge attention to details.
The idea of creating a barrier-free environment is everywhere. There're ramps, elevators and other disabled-friendly equipment, to help about 16-hundred athletes and delegates from 45 countries and regions to settle in. 
SOUNDBITE (CHINESE): ZHAO SUJING, Head of Chinese Paralympic Delegation
"Since the Bejing Olympics, Olympics is held hand in hand with Paralympics. So since Beijing's Games, the construction of all Olympic venues and the athletes' villages have to consider barrier free facilities. Sochi is just the same, and it's doing well in this regard. What we can see here are barrier-free roads and rooms, which are really a convenient design for the disabled. Besides, I think the venues are very close to the villages, which is really convenient for the athletes to take a rest and go for the competitions. Traffic is also excellent. There are shuttle buses to take you to each venue. And the dining rooms, they are easily accessible. And there're also volunteers who prove very hospitable and eager to help. I think the organizers have done a good job." 
About 9,000 volunteers have taken part in the event. Organizers have launded them as leaving a non-material legacy of the Games.
Riccarda Ambros runs a website devoted mainly to covering sports events of people with disabilities. She shares her story as a photographer in the Games. 
SOUNDIBTE (ITALIAN): RICCARDA AMBROS, President, Abilitychannel.tv
"I found Sochi a very good place in terms of accessibility, the buses here are OK, the hotels are good for disabled people. In the Paralympic village, there are buses to help people like me. The only I problem I ran into was at the opening ceremony, with an EP accreditation, I could not have a seat as a photograph. I solved the problem thanks to the help of a Russian volunteer."
It's not only the Olympic venues are going barrier-free, but Sochi as a whole. 
The city has more than 1,000 barrier-free facilities in place, including blind tracks, ramps, special toilets and audible traffic signals.
More than 300 specially-designed buses are running to ensure an easy travel for all.
Even going for a swim in the Black Sea is possible for the handicapped as floating wheelchairs are for rent. 
Galia is from Moscow. She's been in Sochi for over 10 days. 
SOUNDBITE (RUSSIAN): GALIA, Tourist from Moscow
"For the first time in my life, I feel I can live just as an ordinary person. In Sochi, I can travel around all by myself without others taking care of me. In any markets, I found no barriers at all. I am very happy. I think Sochi should be a model city for the world in terms of accessibility, and a model city for safeguarding the rights of wheelchair-bound people."
To build an accessible Sochi is not just for the Paralympics. 
The Games' organizers hope the city can lead the efforts to help the disabled to enjoy sports.
President of the Association of the Chinese Handicapped Zhang Haidi shared the vision. 
SOUNDBITE (CHINESE): ZHANG HAIDI, President, Assoc. of Chinese Handicapped
"Our goal of promoting sports is not to cultivate sports elites, but to engage more disabled people into sports to lead a healthy life. Sports are about participation, and it's significant for people with disability to get integrated with society. "
"More than 200 Russian cities have now been learning from Sochi to make themselves more accessible. But to get people with disabilities involved more actively not just in sports but also in social life, it's not just important to create barrier-free environment. It's more important to create minds-free environment. And not just in Sochi, or during Paralympics, but in every corner and at all times."