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Interview: Beijing Paralympics promote human values: EU official
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14:20, September 13, 2008

The Beijing Paralympic Games have provided opportunities for the promotion of human values and social inclusion of people with disabilities, said European Union (EU) Education Commissioner Jan Figel on Friday.

Figel, who has just returned to Europe from Beijing, said he saw very positive atmosphere in the games, not only among athletes, but also spectators.

"It is very important for the spirit of fairness, of togetherness, of promotion of important human values. It's not only events, it's not only competition, but also a festival of humanity and solidarity," said Figel in an interview.

The opening ceremony was not only cultural, but also had a human touch, said the commissioner, who is also responsible for sports and youth affairs.

He said he was particularly impressed by the one-legged high jumper, Hou Bin, who climbed hand-over-hand to the roof of the Bird's Nest stadium to light the Paralympic flame.

He said he met Hou at the Paralympic Village and was happy to know Hou was named an official ambassador for the Paralympic movement although he could not compete at the games. Hou's game was canceled because there were not enough competitors.

Figel said he was happy to see Hou play this role. "It is important contribution to social inclusion in China and elsewhere," he said.

Figel said he was also moved by the 11-year-old girl, Li Yue, who danced ballet with a large ensemble. The girl lost her left leg in the Sichuan earthquake in May.

Li Yue is a good example of how the young generation, even with disabilities from tragic events, can be seen and participate in public events and how society should be made aware that these people should be part of society in daily life, in full sense of inclusion, not just occasionally.

Figel spoke highly of the organization of the Paralympic Games.

Housing facilities, transport services and restaurants in the Paralympic Village were well prepared. So were the sporting facilities, he said.

"The Being Paralympic Games as well as the Beijing Olympic Games put the level of preparations to very high standards," he said.

He saw positive trends in Beijing Paralympics. "It is very visible that the trend of participation, the scope of activities and the number of visitors are growing. These are very good signals."

Figel said the EU has a sense of responsibility for the Paralympics as the movement was born in Europe 60 years ago.

"We need to work still a lot to improve conditions for the Paralympic movement in Europe, in our member states," he said.

That's why he signed an agreement with the European Paralympic Committee in Beijing, under which the European Commission will channel funds to the committee in the following years to help it function and carry out social inclusion activities.

"It is about values, like tolerance, fairness and solidarity in society," he said.

Figel also met with International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven in Beijing. He said the EU is ready to work with the global Paralympic umbrella organization.


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