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Sochi Paralympics: Russia ready for biggest ever Winter Games

Russia will welcome the sporting world back to Sochi on Friday for the Winter Paralympics opening ceremony.

Less than two weeks after the Winter Olympics ended, 547 athletes from 45 countries will compete for 72 gold medals in five sports over 10 days.

It is the largest number of countries to take part in the event since it was first held in 1976.

The Games, opened by Russian president Vladimir Putin, will begin amid an escalating political crisis in Ukraine.

A number of the world’s politicians have said they will snub the showpiece event following Russian intervention in Crimea, situated just 300 miles from Sochi.

Prime Minister David Cameron said it would be wrong for British ministers to attend the Games – a decision criticised by International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven – while ParalympicsGB patron Prince Edward has also decided not to travel.

Ukraine had contemplated a boycott of the event but on Friday, the Ukraine Paralympic Committee president Valeriy Suskevich confirmed thattheir 23-strong team would take part.

Winter Paralympics in numbers

  • Sochi 2014: 547 athletes – 45 countries
  • Vancouver 2010: 502 athletes – 44 countries
  • Turin 2006: 474 athletes – 38 countries
  • Salt Lake City 2002: 416 athletes – 36 countries
  • Nagano 1998: 562 athletes – 31 countries

The opening ceremony at the Fisht Stadium gets underway at 16:00 GMT with action due to get start on Saturday.

Britain have sent a 15-strong team to Sochi as they attempt to win their first Winter Paralympic gold medal.

Set a target of between two and six medals by UK Sport, Britons will compete in alpine skiing and wheelchair curling.

The team includes 15-year-old skier Millie Knight, who will carry the flag at the opening ceremony and is Britain’s youngest-ever Winter Paralympian.

Britain’s last Winter Paralympics medal came in 2006, when they wonsilver in wheelchair curling.

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