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Curtain on Paralympics to come down, but spirt lives on
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08:19, September 17, 2008

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· Paralympics
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You can always wait for the next year if you miss celebrating a festival in true style and spirit. But events like the Olympics and Paralympics come only once in a lifetime, hence, the overwhelming feeling when it's time to bid goodbye to one.

The curtains will come down on the Paralympic Games tonight. Sure, it will end the celebrations. But the spirit will live on.

If the Olympics made the world understand China better, the Paralympics made the Chinese understand the fighting quality of the physically challenged better.

Under the Paralympics motto of Transcendence, Integration, Equality, Beijing held the biggest ever party of the disabled.

The 12-day celebration of the human spirit threw up many spectacular and touching moments - moments of unalloyed joy and the will to keep the fight up.

The Japanese-Dutch women's volleyball match provided one such moment. Asano Kumi missed her first Paralympics because she fell victim to septicshock 20 days before the Games. But her teammates made sure she was present with them, for they carried the 21-year-old's photograph and No 12 jersey on the court during every match.

The Japanese women lost all their games, but the Games are much more than about winning or losing.

Natalie du Toit created headlines even during the Olympics, swimming the women's marathon (10 km) and becoming the first amputee to do so. The South African won the gold in all the five events she took part in the Paralympics.

The Paralympics is about Oscar Pistorius too. Having failed to qualify for the Olympics, he was expected to create the tracks on fire during the Paralympics, and he did exactly that. The double amputee won three golds.

But these are only victories. And Paralympics is not about winning alone. It's about the feeling of equality - or superiority because the physically challenged have to put in more efforts than others.

It's about things that more able-bodied athletes tried but could not achieve. It's about the Chinese men's footbal team, in the 5-a-side version. It's about an almost raw Chinese team beating Britain, Argentina, the Republic of Korea and Spain, and drawing with Brazil - something their more famous brethren cannot even think of.

And more than anything it's about the way people look at the physically challenged in today's society. That was on show - in the stadiums, out on the streets, in the way people talked about them around dinner tables or while watching them on TV create history, and about the little children who, thanks to promotions and publicities, will grow up thinking about them as one of their own.

Tens of thousands of spectators flooded the Olympic Green every day, the atmosphere in and around the Birds' Nest was the same as during the Olympics.

Each time a national flag was raised, more than 90 thousand people stood up as one to pay their respects. There were some athletes who repaid the debt to the spectators. Tuninsian athlete Chida Farhat, for example, ran the victory lap with the Chinese flag. And Cypriot athlete Aresti Antonis got someone to write "Viva China" in Chinese on his forearm.

Tonight the Bird's Nest will be finally able to sleep after a long but joyous journey that began on Aug 8, the opening day of the Olympics, and after Beijing hands over the Paralympics baton to London.

There won't be a David Beckham around this time. But there will be Ade Adepitan, British wheelchair basketball bronze medalist in Athens 2004. And there will be Gareth Picken, a 9-year-old disabled gymnast, and hopefully Britain's future Paralympian. He will help Ade lead the iconic double-decker London bus to the center of the stage.

The Paralympics, in a way, will return home to London in 2012. The Paralympic Movement has its origins in the British capital, where neurologist Sir Ludwig Guttman organized the first wheelchair games at Stoke Mandeville Hospital during the 1948 London Olympics.

Source: China Daily



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