– Your “Parasport” fund is already seven years old, a long time for any business or fund. Tell us why it appeared and why? And how did it stand the test of time?
– The fund appeared for two reasons. On the one hand, I have been doing sports all my life, doing it on a professional level and as a trainer. My sporting life was always interesting. On the other hand, I have spinal damage, so the challenges facing Paralympians me were close and clear. So the idea of such a fund is very logical in my case. All business leaders are engaged in charity, and I chose this option here. And I am especially glad that the fund was created at the right time. It is now that our Paralympians took first place in the team event at the world championships, and then, but then, in 2005, it was different. There was no such level of support as we have now, such success. Much work has been done by Paralympic Committee, and we have made only a modest contribution.
– Not too modest. You say that the fund’s size is in the millions of dollars.
– This is true. But, of course, a lot of money is needed. The work of the Paralympic Committee is much more difficult and complex compared to the Olympic Committee. Our athletes need the support of a large number of specialists. The plus of our fund is tackling global and multifaceted problems, involving a lot of activities. One of the most important sides is educational, ideological work. We want people with disabilities to be recognized, respected in the community, to have the same rights as others. And we need to know about their problems. It’s so that these people to feel to be a worthy part of society. We want to attract attention to the subject. Therefore, the Paralympic Committee in conjunction with the “Parasport” fund established an annual national award called “Return to Life.” We host a lot of events in different regions of Russia. We provide receptions for Paralympic athletes during the Paralympic Games, for example, in Beijing and London.
– How much time do you devote himself to the “Parasport” fund?
– I, as the founder of the fund, attend all of the most notable events. I talk to the coaches, officials, athletes, activists, representatives of the Paralympic Committee, and with foreign counterparts. I have personally been involved in important negotiations and strategic planning. In this sense, the management of a charitable fund is not the same as managing a business.
– Do many people work in your fund?
– We have only a few employees, but they are such very persistent, enthusiastic people who are selflessly engaged in their work, that they achieve much quickly. In addition, since 2006, I chair the Commission on the development of the Paralympic movement in the Russian Paralympic Committee.
– During this time, has anything changed in the sense of support for Paralympics and opportunities for people with disabilities?
– Much has changed for the better. Thus, the size of the prize money for the champions of Paralympic Games is now equal with that of prize Olympians. That is the way it should be, and it should have been so long ago, because the handicapped find it harder to live and achieve results. In addition, financial assistance from the state has improved in many areas, so there are a lot of new sports facilities for athletes with disabilities. And this is a very important thing.
– Because after all, aside from Paralympians, many are yet to come to the sport, and there should be the facilities available.
– Yes, and therefore our foundation has been supporting not only the winning athletes, but also those who are struggling, who demonstrate the necessary dynamics, although not win prizes. In 2010, we established a special award for the Russian Paralympic team. For example, in Vancouver, prizes were distributed among the athletes who did not received the top prizes, but rather were in the top ten, thus motivating athletes that are a strategic reserve for the future. The first two awards were presented to two girls – Svetlana Yaroshevich (cross country skiing) and Inga Medvedeva (alpine skiing). To add, Inga afterwards said that because of this award, she will not leave the sport, rather begin preparing for Sochi in 2014.
– Do you follow the fate of these athletes?
– In every victory at the Paralympics and even qualifying rounds there is a struggle to overcome . And of course, I watch, both for the athletes and for the success of our team. Today, the Russian team is actively preparing for the Winter Games in Sochi, let’s root for them.
– While you are helping the handicapped, have you developed friendships with some of the athletes?
– I talk with Mikhail Terentyev, who is the general secretary of the Paralympic Committee, a bright, outstanding athlete and a true activist and campaigner for the development of Paralympic sports. Here he is – one of those people who enhances the lives of athletes. I watch summer sports, mainly swimming – we have strong athletes there – Olesya Vladykina , Oksana Savchenko – and there are interesting twists and turns. In athletics – Nicole Rodomakina. Skier and biathlete Irek Zaripov is also a unique person. However, in this sport every story is unique, and does not leave anyone indifferent. And everyone wants to support this program. Therefore, there is a “Parasport” fund.
– How are your relations with the officials, do they help you, or would it be better to not interfere?
– Different in each case, of course. But we very actively cooperate with the Paralympic Committee. They are not doing the usual tasks officials perform, but are professionals, people who are engaged in important work. So we give them support. For example, we participated in the organization of the first visit to Russia of the President of the International Paralympic Committee, Sir Philip Craven. It was an important visit, in which we discussed the participation of the Russian national team in the Paralympic Games in Beijing and plans for Paralympianism in the Russian Federation. Before the Paralympic Games in Beijing, we held an international seminar on the classification of athletes with damage to the musculoskeletal system in order to prepare for the start of the Russian team. In another example, we are currently working with the government of Moscow, building PR for the “Accessible Environment” program, because in Moscow, a person in a wheelchair can not get into any museum or to a stadium. We are preparing a list of objects that should be in the full sense of the word public. And we are ready to participate in the financing of the project, it is only necessary to agree with the authorities. After Moscow, having gained experience, we go to the other provinces. Many countries have long ago finished this work, and we are only beginning.
– During your relations with colleagues in other countries, have you met non-profit organizations like yours?
– Specialised funds for Paralympic committees? Very many, but a private foundation, which can cooperate with everyone – I have not heard about such a thing. We are not the Paralympic Committee’s fund, although we help them a lot. We are a private foundation with its own goals and objectives. “Parasport” is not only a Russian, rather an international project, and we have a lot of help in the Ukraine , for example. We have a humanitarian mission . Our goal is to help people return to normal life, no matter where they live, whom we’re helping. Humanistic values above politics. And our main task, our mission, is promoting Paralympic sports.
– Do you have time for sports? Continue to?
– Yes, I do almost every day in my own gym. But I’m not getting ready for a competition, which requires special training in specially equipped rooms, regular practice. I now have a large business challenge, so I’m doing more Paralympic fitness exercises rather than sport.
– Are there any new directions in your businesses? We know that you are interested in the film industry.
– We support the traditional theater, film projects. Yes, now I’m interested in cinema, for example, I am producing a film by Robert Rodriguez, “Sin City-2,” and Scarlett Johansson ‘s directorial debut “Summer Cruise.”
– How do you assess the non-profit sector in Russia, and the state of philanthropy in our present time?
– I think the ratio of support and caring, social responsibility, is growing, and to put it simply, the conscience is awakening. Societal attitudes towards philanthropy is changing, with a need to help more people. In the early 1990s, there was easy money and the charity was different – this phenomenon could be called the most glamorous sponsorship. In contemporary society, people are evolving, and many good deeds are done by their hearts and beliefs. And that’s good. This is the birth of a new country’s culture, a new society, a new tradition after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it is a natural evolutionary path. We have so long been a pronounced vacuum, now everything is falling into place. This can not be reversed.
– And that would you like to change in the future?
– Of course, I would like to have some more participation from the government, support. And not only from the state but from all social institutions and the establishment. Yes, the trend is positive, and growing much greater. I feel the results even in the Paralympic movement. At the last Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, our team took first place in the overall medal count. There are more people the stadiums, and the press coverage has been active. But this is not enough. It is necessary to create cultural traditions from which emerged morals. 70 years of communism destroyed the traditions, and they are not yet restored, so we need to create something new. It is necessary for people to become kinder, more humane. That, in particular, allows people to experience and think about the problems of those who do not have it so good.