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Paralympics chief: China serious about Games
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08:18, September 03, 2008

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· Paralympics
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Clear skies, golden sunshine and the cool autumn weather. The Paralympic Games could not have got a better welcome.

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven agrees. "Isn't the weather fantastic?" he said yesterday.

"We had incredible weather in Torino and brilliant weather in Athens, where the temperature was around 25-26 C. We are just moving into (excellent) weather in Beijing," the 58-year-old Briton said.

The 2006 Winter Paralympics was held in Torino, Italy, and the 2004 summer version, in Athens. This time, the Paralympics is being held by the Beijing Olympics organizing committee (BOCOG) to present "Two Games with Equal Splendor".

Craven has been involved in the preparations of the Beijing Olympics as well as the Paralympics since 2002.

The IPC chief, who uses a wheelchair, has worked to make venues in Beijing and the two co-host cities of Qingdao and Hong Kong as accessible as possible for Paralympians and spectators both.

But making the Great Wall and the Forbidden City accessible to the physically challenged was a more urgent task for him.

"It's symbolic China is serious about the Paralympics and about all people," he said.

"It's a great feeling to be there on the Great Wall, just as the saying goes, 'you are not a hero unless you climb the Great Wall'."

Craven praised the facilities in Beijing but hoped that more would be done for the physically challenged after the Paralympics. "The level of accessibility (in Beijing) is absolutely fantastic and it's a first class job."

Six years is not enough to change everything, he said, still a "lot of work has been done".

More, however, needs to be done to educate the public and the media to change their perception about the physically challenged, he said. After all, in a developing country like China most of the people have never heard of the Paralympics or seen the disabled play much sport, he said.

People have to enjoy the Paralympics just like they enjoy the Olympics, he said. The IPC has been trying to help "Paralympians achieve excellence and inspire and excite the world", and make the Paralympics as competitive and exciting as any other sporting event.

About 4,000 athletes from 148 countries and regions will compete in 20 events at the Beijing Paralympics.

The very high competitive level of the Paralympians is surprising, Craven said. "For example, the fastest male runner takes about 2 hours, 5 minutes to complete the marathon, while a wheelchair runner takes less than 1 hour, 30 min - which means he is 40 percent faster."

"Once you watch the competition you will be amazed and inspired and excited."

To his delight, there will be over 1.6 million spectators at the Beijing Paralympics. The attendance in Sydney was 1.2 million and in Athens, 850,000.

Source: China Daily



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