By Tom Degun

Philip Craven_22-10-12October 23 - International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven believes that the accessibility measures being implemented by Sochi 2014 for the Winter Paralympics can act as the blueprint for the Games with today marking exactly 500 days to go until the event begins.

Nearly 700 athletes from 45 countries are expected to compete in 72 medal events at the Winter Paralympics in two years' time and Sochi 2014 has been busy working on a number of projects to prepare for the event, which Sir Philip feels could set a precedent for the Games.

"I'm very excited for what promises to be a landmark Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi," said the IPC President.

"Sports-wise they will be the biggest Games yet, with the inclusion of Para-snowboard in the alpine skiing programme.

"However, it is some of the work away from the sporting action that has left me most impressed.

"What the Organising Committee has done in creating a barrier-free environment in Sochi is fantastic and something that should act as a blueprint not just for the whole of Russia but for all other cities interested in staging the Paralympic Games.

"I visited the city earlier this year and was really impressed at what I saw.

"I believe the Games in Sochi will be unique due to the geographical locations but am confident that what is delivered there will continue the momentum the Paralympic Movement has enjoyed in recent years."

Sir Philip_in_SochiSir Philip Craven was shown plans for the Paralympics by Sochi 2014 on an inspection visit earlier this year

To mark 500 days to go to the Paralympics, which will take place on March 7-16, Sochi 2014 has made live an innovative accessibility map, which details easily accessible locations across Russia where people can engage in Paralympic sports.

It is another of its projects that has impressed the IPC President.

"The Accessibility Map will help generate awareness across Russia of accessible facilities and will make it easier for people to engage in Paralympic sport," he said.

"With the help and support of the IPC, this could act as a blueprint for other countries to follow."

The 500 days to go mark for Sochi 2014 comes just 44 days after the conclusion of London 2012, which Sir Philip declared the best Paralympics ever.

The IPC President is keen to stress, however, that he expects Sochi to be a very different Games to London.

Sir Philip_London_2012Sir Philip Craven declared London 2012 the best Paralympics ever during the Closing Ceremony, but he expects Sochi 2014 to be a different type of Games

"It would be wrong to compare what we just experienced with London 2012 with our expectations for Sochi 2014," he said.

"The Summer and Winter Games are poles apart in terms of size and stature, with the Summer Games featuring eight times the number of athletes and four times the number of sports.

"What we need to see in Sochi is continued growth.

"We need to kick on from the fabulous Paralympic Winter Games we enjoyed in Vancouver in 2010.

"Although the size and scale will be different to London, there are some things that are constant at all Paralympic Games.

"The Paralympic spirit will be as strong as ever and the amazing performances of athletes will continue to inspire and excite the world.

"I also hope the success Russia enjoyed in finishing second in the London 2012 medals table has a positive influence on Sochi 2014 in terms of spectators and television viewers.

"Our research showed that Russian broadcasters massively increased their coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games and the viewers responded which is extremely encouraging.

"The challenge now is to build on this platform.

"Next year is a very big year for us in terms of winter sports.

"There are World Championships in alpine and Nordic skiing, ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling, as well as a whole raft of test events planned for Sochi.

"Our aim is to maximise awareness of all these events to whet the appetite of sports fans ahead of Sochi 2014.

"I also hope that the world's media, who were so enthralled by London 2012, are equally as enthusiastic about what we have lined up in 2013, another bumper year of Paralympic sport."

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