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Natalia Komarova: Deaflympics are out of Politics


Natalia Komarova: Deaflympics are out of Politics

The Interim Head of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug – Ugra Natalia Komarova in her exclusive interview to Sportbox.ru shared her attitude to the coming Winter Deaflympics and preparation thereto, and once more emphasized the importance of the non-material legacy of the Games.

— The Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug is a frequent host of sport competitions of the most various ranks. What is in your opinion the difference between the Deaflympics and other tournaments held?

— You are right, Ugra has hosted many large-scale international sport events. Almost each year we are visited by the leading biathletes of the planet, world-class grand masters participate in chess tournaments here, we hold the World, Continental, and National Championships in different kinds of sports— boxing, water polo, billiard, ski, judo and so on. Sport became a visit card of the region for Ugra, thanks to which it is known all over the world.

However, the Winter Deaflympic Games shall stand apart here. Our country has for the first time been entrusted with an honorary right to host such a large-scale sport event for hearing-impaired athletes. And we are glad that the Deaflympics take place in the Ugra land. When the decision was made, everyone realized that Ugra has a rich experience of hosing events of the highest level, and the residents always meet guests with warmth and care. Many of those who visited Ugra say that they feel themselves at home there.

There is one more important reason which lies in the unique nature of the Deaflympics. The athletes, while overwhelming difficulties, make their way to the victory, to the intended, cherished dream. As it has been rightly said, these are people with limited capabilities in terms of health, but with unlimited opportunities. Moreover, the Deaflympics are one more chance to remind us of tolerance, respect to those, who differ from us, of the need to find common grounds. For the first time in the history of our country, we invite all residents of Russia, neighboring countries and beyond to visit the Deaflympics. Ugra is a genuinely unique region, where unique people live. Here we say: To see Ugra means to fall in love with Russia.

— When have you, as the Head of the region, been first addressed with an offer to host the Games?

— The Deaflympic movement has an extensive history in Ugra. Presently it unites about 600 of deaf and hard of hearing athletes, 23 of whom are members of the National Team. The Ugra-residents have accomplished a lot — victories in the largest tournaments in track-and-field athletics, skiing races, volleyball. Furthermore, every year about 400 contests of various levels take place on the territory of the autonomous district. One more advantage of the capital of our district is the walking proximity of the sport facilities. That’s why we were the ones to apply for holding the Deaflympic Games in Khanty-Mansiysk, and the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf made a decision in our favor. Today we are doing everything to justify the trust of the international sport community.

— Does the national and world political and economic situation influence the preparation to the Deaflympics? Was there anyone who refused to participate?

— The Olympic Games are not a political event, but a genuine celebration of sports. The same principle applies to the Deaflympics. As of today, we have not received any refusal from participation. Athletes from the European countries, USA, and Ukraine applied to participate in the Games. We will be glad to see them and will do everything to hold the Games on the high organizational level. The Executive Board receives many letters from fans from other Russian regions, who ask where to buy tickets, what hotels to reserve. About 100 hearing disabled people from the USA have already declared of their intention to come to Russia as an organized group and support their athletes. Thus, people from different countries are able to separate sports and politics.

— What are the greatest difficulties you personally and the district as a whole had to face in course of preparation to the tournament? Does the fact that these are the first Winter Deaflympics in 8 years impose any more pressure?

— In course of the Games, Khanty-Mansiysk five sport facilities will be used. The majority of these facilities are considered one of the best in the world. However, it shall be understood that all of these facilities required preparation to the Deaflympics. For several times we have been visited by a special committee and considered all the remarks and revealed short-comings before the event. We have conducted many large-scale events in the region and beyond. For example, our specialists took active part in organization and preparation of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi. Thus we have an extensive experience and don’t get scared of difficulties. We feel the responsibility — towards our residents, country and eventually towards ourselves. After all, the future generation, as is well-known, will remember us based on our deeds. And the deeds shall be done with a heart and spirit, then everything will definitely work out well!

— It is evident that in contrast to the Olympic Games Deaflympics are a totally non-commercial project. Nevertheless, you have once said, that its legacy cannot be expressed in the material equivalent. What did you mean?

— Deaflympics represent a certain intermediary summation for everything we have learned and achieved. Having conducted the Chess Olympics in 2010, we have not stopped on what we had achieved. Ugra continues to develop in this direction. And the main result of such tournaments is not even the worldwide acknowledgement, but development of sports in Ugra. After such events, thousands of boys and girls take up sports. Not all of them become champions, but believe me, mass sports in our region are developed not less than the professional sports.

It means a lot to us to see the attitude to people with limited capabilities change throughout our country. After all, nowadays many сейчас Russian sport facilities require special adaptation for disabled people, not to say about streets of our cities. This adaptation, attention to the needs of people with limited capabilities shall become the main legacy of the Games.

It shall be particularly stated that Ugra is a very attractive region in terms of tourism. Traditionally many people from different corners of the world come to us to visit various events, not all of which are sport ones. The Deaflympics are an excellent reason to visit the region, get acquainted with traditions and mode of life of the native Northern population, see with their own eyes how to get black gold, experience the atmosphere of a sport festival. Guests are always welcome!

Furthermore, we have a very powerful volunteer movement. The Deaflympics will serve as a new push for its development. The Games allow volunteers to get additional skills and bring up the whole generation of people, who understand the needs of the people with hearing disorders. We shall not forget about the image component. The capital of the region will once again prove to be a sport, commercial, cultural, touristic center of the international rank with a modern social, transport, telecommunication and energy infrastructure.

— How does Khanty-Mansiysk prepare to the Games, in the part, which is not directly related to sport events? How is Ugra going to surprise the athletes and guests of the competition?

— At the present time, extensive preparation to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies takes place. One of the main symbols of the ceremonies is the Flame of the Deaflympic Games, the relay of which will come from the theatric site to out to the streets of Ugra. The moment of lighting up the city cauldron on the central square will be a symbolic signal for official declaration of Opening of the Deaflympics. The Deaflympic Torch Relay will comprise 18 torchbearer, who will come to us from the whole Russia. These will be the most honorable region representatives, inspiring others by their example; people, who proved that disability shall not prevent from achieving the goal of life; public figures, who help to improve the life conditions of disabled people; representatives of charity organization; peacemakers and many others. Final of each competition day will be an official award ceremony for winners and runners-up in each separate discipline on the central square of our city at the Deaflympic Cauldron. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as the Deaflympic Torch Relay will be broadcasted on the official website of the competition. Your audience is welcome to join the view.

— And what has been done to make people with hearing disorders feel fully comfortable during their stay in the city and district?

— I will repeat myself that one of the main directions of preparation to the Deaflympic Games is engagement and training of the volunteers, who are going to work at the competition. In total, it is planned to engage about 800 volunteers to take part in the Deaflympics, a part of whom know body language, which will allow people with hearing disorders feel comfortable in the Ugra capital. Although Khanty-Mansiysk is a rather compact city, and the sport facilities, used in course of the Games, are located in immediate proximity to each other, all necessary information signs will still be placed throughout the city.

— do you plan any other initiatives like Deaflympic Lesson or rendering the Russian anthem in the sign language?

— We plan to hold a number of special events before the Games, including a contest for the best social advertisement Time to Erase Boundaries and the best selfi, dedicated to the Games. All the events, first of all, are aimed at popularization of the 18th Winter Deaflympic Games and attracting people’s attention to the Deaflympics Movement development. I am sure that they will get as large coverage and feedback, as the Deaflympic Lessons.

To recap, the Winter Deaflympic Games, which will be held from March 28 to April 5, will be hosted not only in Khanty-Mansiysk, but also in Magnitogorsk.

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