The acting governor of Khanty-Mansiysk autonomous okrug – Ugra Natalia Komarova has given an exclusive interview to internet page Sportbox.ru, discussing her feelings about the forthcoming Winter Deaflympics and the process of getting ready to them, stressing attention on non-material heritage of the Games.
— Khanty-Mansiysk autonomous okrug is often hosting different sport events. In your opinion, what is the difference between the Deaflympics and other competitions held in Ugra?
— You’re right; Ugra was hosting many international sport events. Almost every year top world biathletes come here, chess tournaments with world-class grand masters are taking place, World, Continental and National Championships in boxing, water polo, billiards, cross-country skiing, judo and other sports are held in Ugra. Sport is a visit card of the region that made it known around the world.
However, the Deaflympics take a separate place here. For the first time in history Russia has received the right to host such an important sport event for athletes with hearing disorders. We are very pleased, that Ugra land will be the capital of the Deaflympics. When the decision was being made, everybody realized that Ugra has a big experience in conducting international tournaments of the highest level. Our people are very hospitable. Many guests of Ugra say that here they feel themselves at home.
One more important reason is the unique character of the Deaflympics. Overcoming all the difficulties athletes are heading for the victory, the dream they want to come true. People are right saying that these people have health disorders but unlimited potential. The Deaflympics is one more reason to remind people about tolerance and respect for people that are different and the need to find common language with everybody. We invite people from other regions of Russia and foreign countries to come to Ugra and see the first Deaflympics that will be held in Russia. Ugra is a unique region with unique people. Here we say: «To see Ugra is to fall in love with Russia».
— When did you first receive a proposal to host the Deaflympics in this region?
— Deaflympic movement in Urga has a long history. Now it includes around 600 athletes, 23 of them are members of our national Deaflympic team. Athletes from Ugra are the winners of major track-and-field events, cross-country competitions and volleyball tournaments. Every year around 400 international, national and regional sport competitions are held in Ugra. One more advantage of Khanty-Mansiysk is its size; all sport venues are within walking distance from each other. That’s why we have initiated the proposal to host the Winter Deaflympics in Khanty-Mansiysk and sent it to the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) that has accepted it. Now we are doing our best to prove that this was a right decision.
— Is there any influence of political and economic situation upon the Games? Are there are teams that refused to come here?
— Olympic Games are a non-political event, a special sport event. Deaflympics are based on the same principle. At the moment we haven’t received a refuse from any national team to participate in the Games. Teams of European countries, USA and Ukraine are coming to Khanty-Mansiysk to take part in the Deaflympics. We are looking forward to seeing them and do our best to conduct the competitions on the highest level. The organizing committee of the Games is getting e-mails from sport fans living in different regions of Russia asking how to buy tickets and what hotel to book. Around 100 people with hearing disorders from USA have decided to come to Russia to support their athletes. So you see, people in all countries understand that sport and politics are not the same.
— What were the biggest difficulties you and your region were facing while getting ready for the Deaflympics? Do you feel any special pressure because of the fact that this will be the first Deaflympics of the last 8 years?
— In Khanty-Mansiysk the Deaflympics will take place on 5 sport venues. Most of them are considered to be the best in our country. However, we understand that to host the Deaflympics they need to have some special equipment. Several times we were having meetings with a special inspection that came to Khanty-Mansiysk to check all the venues. We have a big experience in hosting major sport events in the region and outside it. For example, our specialists were participating in organizing and conducting Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi. Wearenotafraidofanydifficulties. We feel responsible for this to the people of our region and country and to ourselves. The future generation will judge us upon our deeds. We need to do them with all our kindness and heart and then they will be a success!
— It is understood that in contrast with the Olympics, Deaflympics is an absolutely non-commercial project. However, as you have said before, its heritage is not of material character. Whatdidyoumeanbythis?
— Deaflympics are an intermediary result of everything we’ve learnt and reached before. In 2010 we have hosted the Chess Olympiad and we are not ready to rest. We want to grow and go further. The main reason to do this is not an international success but a popularization of sport in Ugra. Thousands of boys and girls decide to join sport clubs and sections when they see such big sport competitions. Not all of them are becoming champions; however, mass sport is as popular in Ugra as professional sport.
It is important for us to see that the attitude to people with disabilities is changing in our country. A lot of sport venues in Russia need a special adaptation and equipment for people with physical disabilities. The same situation is with streets of our cities. This adaptation and attention to needs of disabled people is a real heritage of these Games.
Besides, it is worth adding that Ugra attracts a lot of tourists. Traditionally, many people are coming here from all parts of the world to attend different events, not only sport competitions. Deaflympics is a great reason to see the region and the traditions of the indigenous population of the North, to watch how “the black oil” is being produced, to dip into the atmosphere of sport. We are always ready to see our guests!
Besides, we have a big team of volunteers. Deaflympics is stimulating its rapid growth. The Games will allow volunteers to get new skills and to form a new generation of people that are aware of the problems of people with hearing disabilities. We also take into consideration the image of our region. The capital of Ugra will prove that it is an international centre of sport, business, culture and tourism with modern social, transport, telecommunication and energy infrastructure.
— How is Khanty-Mansiysk getting ready to the competitions of the Deaflympics? Will there be any surprises for athletes and sport fans?
— Now we are getting ready for the official Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Deaflympics. One of the main symbols of the Ceremonies is the Deaflympic fire. We are planning to organize the Deaflympic torch relay that will take place on the streets of Ugra capital. The Deaflympic cauldron will be lighted on the central city square; this will be the symbol of the start of the Deaflympics. . 18 torch-bearers from all different regions of Russia will take part in the Deaflympic torch relay. These will be the most honorable people of Russia who inspire others and prove with their own example that disabilities are not preventing people from reaching their targets and making their dreams come true; public figures that help to make the lives of disabled people better; representatives of non-commercial organizations; peace-makers, etc. In the end of every day of the competitions the awarding ceremony will take place near the Deaflympic cauldron. The Opening and Closing ceremonies and the Deaflympic torch relay will be broadcasted online on the official internet page of the Games. I welcome your audience to follow it.
— What has been done in Khanty-Mansisyk and in the region to make deaf people feel comfortable during their visit?
— I’d like to emphasize that one of the main aspects of getting ready for the Deaflympics is to find and to train volunteers that will be working during the competitions. It is planned that around 800 volunteers will participate in conducting the Games; some of them know sign language. This will make deaf people feel comfortable during their stay in Ugra capital. Although Khanty-Mansiysk is not big, all Deaflympic venues are within the walking distance from each other, still there will be special information signs places around the city.
— Do you plan any other initiatives like “The Deaflympic lesson” and signing the anthem of Russia in sign language?
— Before the Games we want to conduct some special events like contest of social advertisements “It’s time to remove barriers” and contest for the best selfies dedicated to the Deaflympics. All the initiatives are made in order to popularize the XVIII Winter Deaflympics and the sport of people with hearing disorders. I am sure, these contests will be as popular as the Deaflympic lesson.
It is to be reminded that the Winter Deaflympics will take place in Khanty-Mansiysk and Magnitogorsk from March’28 to April’05.