TOGETHER AS ONE
14
World Cup organisers tried to make the tournament highly accessible
for people with limited mobility. Eugene Markov learned a little more
about how it all worked.
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World Cup organisers tried to make the tournament highly accessible for people with limited mobility. Eugene Markov learned a little more about how it all worked.

«But what about the disabled and those with limited mobility? The answer is simple. The unique ability of football to transcend all kinds of boundaries makes it an excellent platform for strategies of inclusion and adaptation. The FIFA World Cup showed just what is possible when there is the will and determination to be truly accessible and inclusive.

"Misha is 29 years old. Four years ago, he was involved in a car accident and since then has become a wheelchair user," Lidia Korneeva, mother of Misha Korneeva from the village of Aksenovo near Moscow, explained. Together with her son, they attended the match between Portugal and Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium. "We've often gone to matches in Moscow and it was the idea of Misha's classmates for him to see a World Cup fixture. They wrote to the LOC, which was so touched by his story that they found him a ticket. When I heard about it, I could hardly believe it."

The World Cup host stadiums were equipped with 5,500 seats for non-able-bodied fans. But that was only part of the special programme set up for them. Organisers acknowledged that comfort was also imperative while travelling from home, so they provided specially prepared sleeper carriages in long-distance trains (or cars with wheelchair access if the trip was not too long). Golf-style buggies transported fans into the stadiums, while the partially sighted were provided with their own audio commentary - a personal touch with a professional approach from sports TV and radio experts brought in to help.

"We really liked it," Lidia continued. "Everything was clean and beautiful, the stadium was huge, the seats were sited in a spacious gallery between the upper and lower tiers and really comfortable. I even started crying at the sheer scope of everything we experienced."

Russia had started to create a barrier-free environment long before the World Cup, but it was the tournament itself that showed how much could be done. Special parking lots at each of the 12 stadiums; elevators and ramps; lower counters in the catering area; separate specially equipped public conveniences. And, of course, people who were ready to help selflessly. In fact, there were about 6,000 volunteers specifically working with fans with limited mobility.

One 13-year-old girl named Rada had cerebral palsy. She was a wheelchair user and she almost never spoke. Together with her mother Karina she attended two World Cup matches: Russia - Saudi Arabia and Serbia - Brazil.

"It doesn't look like Rada is very good at football," said her mother, "but she likes dynamic kinds of sport and watching things unfold. She watched the games with such pleasure and was as noisily enthusiastic as everyone else! We met with Mexican wheelchair users and shook hands with a Chilean girl, also in a wheelchair. In fact, at the Serbia - Brazil game we sat in the VIP zone, where everything was to the highest standard, including soft chairs. For some reason, I remember the restaurant: everything was so well arranged that the wheelchair user could go up and take food from the buffet table without any problems. Some might say that's only a minor detail, but for people who cannot always serve themselves in everyday life, such little things mean a lot."

That kind of independence is so important, being able to do things for yourself rather than have to rely on whoever is looking after you. This is the sort of thing that created an inclusive environment: the fact that Rada could reach out her hand and choose what she wanted without anyone's help. Especially considering it happened not in the family kitchen, but at the stadium of the best World Cup
in history.

These are the really special football lovers. Fans who would not have had any chance of being at the centre of activities but for the efforts of thousands of people who made it a reality. Fans who, years from now on hearing someone recall the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, can say: "I was there, too."
t is no exaggeration to say that the whole world watched Russia's festival of football in the summer of 2018. Mainly, of course, on TV. So many people wanted tickets for games that even tech-savvy fans needed a fair bit of luck to secure them.
OVER 23,000 TICKETS
for fans with disabilities
were sold and distributed
at the World Cup
t is no exaggeration to say that the whole world watched Russia's festival of football in the summer of 2018. Mainly, of course, on TV. So many people wanted tickets for games that even tech-savvy fans needed a fair bit of luck to secure them.

«ut what about the disabled and those with limited mobility? The answer is simple. The unique ability of football to transcend all kinds of boundaries makes it an excellent platform for strategies of inclusion and adaptation. The FIFA World Cup showed just what is possible when there is the will and determination to be truly accessible and inclusive.

"Misha is 29 years old. Four years ago, he was involved in a car accident and since then has become a wheelchair user," Lidia Korneeva, mother of Misha Korneeva from the village of Aksenovo near Moscow, explained. Together with her son, they attended the match between Portugal and Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium. "We've often gone to matches in Moscow and it was the idea of Misha's classmates for him to see a World Cup fixture. They wrote to the LOC, which was so touched by his story that they found him a ticket. When I heard about it, I could hardly believe it."

The World Cup host stadiums were equipped with 5,500 seats for non-able-bodied fans. But that was only part of the special programme set up for them. Organisers acknowledged that comfort was also imperative while travelling from home, so they provided specially prepared sleeper carriages in long-distance trains (or cars with wheelchair access if the trip was not too long). Golf-style buggies transported fans into the stadiums, while the partially sighted were provided with their own audio commentary - a personal touch with a professional approach from sports TV and radio experts brought in to help.

"We really liked it," Lidia continued. "Everything was clean and beautiful, the stadium was huge, the seats were sited in a spacious gallery between the upper and lower tiers and really comfortable. I even started crying at the sheer scope of everything we experienced."

Russia had started to create a barrier-free environment long before the World Cup, but it was the tournament itself that showed how much could be done. Special parking lots at each of the 12 stadiums; elevators and ramps; lower counters in the catering area; separate specially equipped public conveniences. And, of course, people who were ready to help selflessly. In fact, there were about 6,000 volunteers specifically working with fans with limited mobility.

One 13-year-old girl named Rada had cerebral palsy. She was a wheelchair user and she almost never spoke. Together with her mother Karina she attended two World Cup matches: Russia - Saudi Arabia and Serbia - Brazil.

"It doesn't look like Rada is very good at football," said her mother, "but she likes dynamic kinds of sport and watching things unfold. She watched the games with such pleasure and was as noisily enthusiastic as everyone else! We met with Mexican wheelchair users and shook hands with a Chilean girl, also in a wheelchair. In fact, at the Serbia - Brazil game we sat in the VIP zone, where everything was to the highest standard, including soft chairs. For some reason, I remember the restaurant: everything was so well arranged that the wheelchair user could go up and take food from the buffet table without any problems. Some might say that's only a minor detail, but for people who cannot always serve themselves in everyday life, such little things mean a lot."

That kind of independence is so important, being able to do things for yourself rather than have to rely on whoever is looking after you. This is the sort of thing that created an inclusive environment: the fact that Rada could reach out her hand and choose what she wanted without anyone's help. Especially considering it happened not in the family kitchen, but at the stadium of the best World Cup
in history.

These are the really special football lovers. Fans who would not have had any chance of being at the centre of activities but for the efforts of thousands of people who made it a reality. Fans who, years from now on hearing someone recall the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, can say: "I was there, too."
OVER 23,000 TICKETS for fans with disabilities were sold and distributed at the World Cup
It is no exaggeration to say that the whole world watched Russia's festival of football in the summer of 2018. Mainly, of course, on TV. So many people wanted tickets for games that even tech-savvy fans needed a fair bit of luck to secure them.

«But what about the disabled and those with limited mobility? The answer is simple. The unique ability of football to transcend all kinds of boundaries makes it an excellent platform for strategies of inclusion and adaptation. The FIFA World Cup showed just what is possible when there is the will and determination to be truly accessible and inclusive.

"Misha is 29 years old. Four years ago, he was involved in a car accident and since then has become a wheelchair user," Lidia Korneeva, mother of Misha Korneeva from the village of Aksenovo near Moscow, explained. Together with her son, they attended the match between Portugal and Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium. "We've often gone to matches in Moscow and it was the idea of Misha's classmates for him to see a World Cup fixture. They wrote to the LOC, which was so touched by his story that they found him a ticket. When I heard about it, I could hardly believe it."

The World Cup host stadiums were equipped with 5,500 seats for non-able-bodied fans. But that was only part of the special programme set up for them. Organisers acknowledged that comfort was also imperative while travelling from home, so they provided specially prepared sleeper carriages in long-distance trains (or cars with wheelchair access if the trip was not too long). Golf-style buggies transported fans into the stadiums, while the partially sighted were provided with their own audio commentary - a personal touch with a professional approach from sports TV and radio experts brought in to help.

"We really liked it," Lidia continued. "Everything was clean and beautiful, the stadium was huge, the seats were sited in a spacious gallery between the upper and lower tiers and really comfortable. I even started crying at the sheer scope of everything we experienced."

Russia had started to create a barrier-free environment long before the World Cup, but it was the tournament itself that showed how much could be done. Special parking lots at each of the 12 stadiums; elevators and ramps; lower counters in the catering area; separate specially equipped public conveniences. And, of course, people who were ready to help selflessly. In fact, there were about 6,000 volunteers specifically working with fans with limited mobility.

One 13-year-old girl named Rada had cerebral palsy. She was a wheelchair user and she almost never spoke. Together with her mother Karina she attended two World Cup matches: Russia - Saudi Arabia and Serbia - Brazil.

"It doesn't look like Rada is very good at football," said her mother, "but she likes dynamic kinds of sport and watching things unfold. She watched the games with such pleasure and was as noisily enthusiastic as everyone else! We met with Mexican wheelchair users and shook hands with a Chilean girl, also in a wheelchair. In fact, at the Serbia - Brazil game we sat in the VIP zone, where everything was to the highest standard, including soft chairs. For some reason, I remember the restaurant: everything was so well arranged that the wheelchair user could go up and take food from the buffet table without any problems. Some might say that's only a minor detail, but for people who cannot always serve themselves in everyday life, such little things mean a lot."

That kind of independence is so important, being able to do things for yourself rather than have to rely on whoever is looking after you. This is the sort of thing that created an inclusive environment: the fact that Rada could reach out her hand and choose what she wanted without anyone's help. Especially considering it happened not in the family kitchen, but at the stadium of the best World Cup
in history.

These are the really special football lovers. Fans who would not have had any chance of being at the centre of activities but for the efforts of thousands of people who made it a reality. Fans who, years from now on hearing someone recall the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, can say: "I was there, too."