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Interview: Beijing Paralympics -- Akiko's lifetime memory
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16:41, September 12, 2008

"It will remain in our memories for a lifetime," said Akiko Ito, chief of the New York-based Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in an interview with Xinhua about her recent visit to the Beijing Paralympic Games.

From Sept. 6 to 9, Akiko accompanied UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang to Beijing, where they visited the Paralympic Village, attended the opening event of the Paralympic Games and held talks with officials from the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF).

On Wednesday, Akiko, upon arrival at her Tokyo home, accepted a telephone interview from Xinhua.

Memories of the "magnificent" opening ceremony came to Akiko's mind first. "That was extraordinary. I have never seen anything like that in my professional and personal life."

It was both "artistic and breathtaking," and full of modern and cultural expressions of athletic forces, she said.

Akiko was most impressed by the last scene, when she saw Hou Bin, a Chinese Paralympic gold medalist, strenuously ascend himself to light the Olympic flame.

The torch-lighting stunt signified human potential, on which no one should set limitations, she said. "I thought the message was so strong that it will remain in our memories for a lifetime. A wonderful event."

The year 1986 marked the first time for Akiko, then a university student, to visit Beijing, where she was impressed by the ancient city's long history and cultural heritage. Since then, she has returned on several occasions, only to find tremendous changes every time.

Now, Beijing has become very modern and can be compared to any other major city in the world, she said.

Before her journey to the Paralympic Games, Akiko was already told by friends who came back from the Summer Olympics about how Beijing had become "so accessible." Still, she was surprised to witness the accessibility of the Paralympic Village, where people, including the handicapped, can roam around and encounter no barriers.

She was particularly amazed at the fact that all the facilities specially designed for the disabled persons in Beijing will remain accessible to the public after the Games are over.

The planning was "very impressive," and enabled people from all over the world, including those with disabilities, to enjoy the city, work, study and do anything they wish to do, she said.

Akiko was also "touched and very much impressed" by the young Chinese people who "are so committed to social development goals like equality and empowerment of people with disabilities."

With their own ambitions to become internationally successful, they are very much proud of being able to serve as part of society, she said.

As a UN official in charge of affairs of persons with disabilities, Akiko was also familiar with the progress China has made in promoting the cause of disabled people.

She was impressed by how the Chinese government has been promoting education and employment for disabled persons, as evidenced by the increasing number of children with disabilities receiving education and people with disabilities getting professional training.

The Chinese government has made promoting the cause of the disabled people one of the national priorities, she said, noting that even in the remote areas in southwestern China like Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, there are CDPF staff who have worked for years to raise people's awareness of the cause.

She also praised the "leadership" role played by China when the international community was engaged in drafting of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first UN convention specially designed to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

Source: Xinhua

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