DHAKA: Russia will welcome the sporting world back to Sochi on Friday for the Winter Paralympics opening ceremony.
Less than a fortnight after the Winter Olympics ended, 575 athletes from 45 countries will compete for 72 gold medals in five sports over 10 days, BBC reported.
That`s the largest number of athletes and 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, one of the most successful Paralympic nations, is also contemplating a boycott of the event.
The president of the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee made an emotional plea for peace on the eve of the opening ceremony as he explained how concerned his 23 athletes were about the situation back home.
"My sportsmen dream about participating, but not without the Ukrainian people," said Valeriy Suskevich. "The national team represents the Ukrainian people, it`s not separate."
Ukraine will make a decision on participation before the opening ceremony gets under way at 1600 GMT.
The action is due to get under way on Saturday.
Britain have sent a 15-strong team to Sochi as they attempt to win their first Winter Paralympic gold medal.
BDST: 1440 HRS, MAR 07, 2014
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