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President of Greece Paralympic Committee: Paralympics brings society close to disabled
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09:32, September 08, 2008

The most important thing Paralympic Games leaves is that it brings the society close to the disabled, said Spyros Stavrianopoulos, president of the Greece Paralympic Committee on Sunday.

"The most important is Paralympic Games brings society close to the disabled, and improves the social recognition of the disabled," said the president, who wanted to share the experience of 2004 Athens Paralympic Games with China.

"2004 Paralympics leaves us very big heritage," said Stavrianopoulos, who was sitting in a wheelchair, "It brings the society close to us, close to the disabled people."

"After the Athens Paralympic Games, children of disabilities came out of their homes, and start doing sports. They came to sports and they came to the society. Now in the Greek team for Beijing Paralympics, we have a some very young athletes who started sports because of the 2004 Paralympics."

The president believes the same thing will happen in China. "I was watching TV this morning, and I think it might be the first time Chinese people saw children without legs playing basketball; saw disabled athletes playing football. And all the disabled athletes show they are hungry for life and they want to create and to live."

"I'd like to use sport as an example for equality between people with and without disabilities," said the president. "If you watch wheelchair basketball, you'll find the basket is at the same for both. It is the same for tall guys and the wheelchairs. So if an athlete in a wheelchair can play basketball, he can go to the university to study; he can take part in society as everyone else. That's what Paralympics tells."

"4 years ago I visited china," said Stavrianopoulos, "I was in a meeting in Beijing. It's a much more beautiful place now, much more well dressed. But at that time I was very much impressed I saw few wheelchair people in the street. This was something not good. "

"Because my visit is very short and I only went to a few areas in Beijing, so I don't know if the image I saw is close to reality. But if it is the reality, I want from today on, more and more disabled people to go around in the public spaces, to visit the museum, to go to shops, and to have success in all areas. This is what I believe we can share with you," he said.

Stavrianopoulos watched the opening ceremony on Saturday night, "It was wonderful. It is really a beautiful opening ceremony with good quality and strong spirituality," he said. "It was something we could expect, thinking about the very long cultural heritage and tradition of China. We'd like to thank you very much for the pleasure you gave us to watch such a wonderful opening ceremony."

When asked how was the opening ceremony of Beijing Paralympics compared with that in Athens 2004, the president said:"I would never be able to compare two beautiful women, just because one is blonde and one is brownette. Both women are beautiful."

"I'd like to say for a country to organize very good Olympics and Paralympics with a lot of medals and success, it's very important, but it is not all. Because every big sports event is also a big social event, and it's very important to know the message it tells the society. What I'd like to believe is that the message is to bring the society close to the people with disability."

Source: Xinhua

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