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Paralympic Games 2008 Changes Attitudes to Disabilities

  • Synopsis: Published: 2008-09-08 (Revised/Updated 2009-02-13) - More than 4000 competitors from nearly 150 countries and regions are battling for 472 gold medals in 20 Paralympic sports. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World.

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More than 4,000 competitors from nearly 150 countries and regions are battling for 472 gold medals in 20 Paralympic sports at the
eye-catching venues used for the Olympics such as the "Bird's Nest" and the Water Cube.

China, which topped the medals table at the 2004 Athens Paralympics with 63 golds ahead of Britain and Canada, is widely expected to dominate the Paralympic games again, even more comprehensively than at last month's Olympics.

More than 4,000 competitors from nearly 150 countries and regions are battling for 472 gold medals in 20 Paralympic sports at the eye-catching venues used for the Olympics such as the "Bird's Nest" and the Water Cube.

The sports at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, which ends on September 17, include athletics, swimming, power-lifting, wheelchair fencing and five-a-side and seven-a-side football, as well as the lesser-known goalball and boccia.

The Olympic Village in Beijing has been modified to accommodate disabled athletes, and the city has also spent 600 million yuan (nearly US$88 million) improving public access for the disabled.

After the rousing success of the Beijing Olympic Games, the 2008 Paralympic Games kicked off with another remarkable opening ceremony at the Bird's Nest on September 6.

Sitting in his wheelchair, Hou Bin, the three-time Paralympic gold medalist took five minutes to pull himself up a rope with bare hands and "fly" to the roof of the Bird's Nest to light the torch. Hou thinks it is his responsibility to promote the Paralympic movement across China and encourage more disabled people to live an active life. "There are more than 80 million disabled people in China, but society has not paid much attention to us," he says.

Deng Pufang, the China Disabled Persons Federation (CDPF) president, expressed great hope for the Beijing Paralympics in the career development of the country's disabled, according to a Xinhua interview on Sunday. Currently, the country has more than 2.8 million disabled athletes, 1.5 million of whom participated in events related to the Paralympics, according to Deng.

Some of Beijing's most popular tourist attractions are becoming more accessible as the city woos athletes and visitors to the Paralympic Games and fulfills its pledge to make life easier for its estimated 1 million disabled citizens. Beijing will add 16 bus routes leading to the Games venues, and put 400 disabled-access buses in use during the September 6-17 Games, which will draw about 4,000 disabled athletes from around the world to compete.

Today handicapped access to Beijing's most famous part of the Great Wall, Badaling, includes two lifts and a wheelchair ramp that allows disabled visitors to see one of the best views from the man-made wonder.

In the 600-year-old Palace Museum, or the Forbidden City, a 1,000-meter long barrier-free pathway allows visitors in wheelchairs to go down the central axis of the palace.

Elevators have been installed in three main buildings in the imperial palace so handicapped visitors don't have to climb the 30 steps for a bird's eye view.

Laws are in place that impose fines on employers who refuse to hire qualified disabled applicants, but many employers choose to pay the fines rather than hire the handicapped. China's disabled population has no doubt swelled as a result of the devastating earthquake that struck Sichuan province in May.

In the end, the most important story of the Beijing Olympics will not be about the medals won, the records broken or the flawless organization of the host country. It will be about what happens next - for the disabled in China, and for everyone else.

Paralympics Snippets

Venezuelan press hailed on Sunday the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games of Beijing.

Local daily "El Universal" said in its sports sections that "Beijing inaugurated the Paralympic Games in a spectacular way, in an event where Chinese leaders expect to show its most fraternal side."

"El Nacional" daily said that "China one more time amazed with an impressive opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games of Beijing."

"Ultimas Noticias" daily said that "The greatest Paralympic Games of the history were inaugurated in Beijing, in the Bird Nest, with a ceremony full of festivity and spectacular."

Daily "El impulse" said that "China targets other opportunity to secure its role as sports world power." Daily "El Correo del Caroni" said that "Beijing shined again with the inauguration of the Paralympics," when fulfilling all the expectations.

Paralympic Events Roundup

Swimmer David Roberts began his bid to overtake Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson as Britain's most successful Paralympian with a Paralympic record in the National Aquatics Center. The 28-year-old from Pontypridd, who has seven golds from the last two Games and is competing in five events in Beijing, led 13 British Paralympians into finals at the Water Cube.

Clinton Township's Cheryl Angelelli won silver Sunday at the Paralympic Games in Beijing - the first medal for Team USA.

TWO Welsh athletes have continued the nation's historic success in Beijing, winning gold medals on the opening day of the Paralympic Games. Cyclists Simon Richardson, from Porthcawl, and Ellen Hunter from Wrexham, the sighted pilot for partially-sighted Scottish cyclist Aileen McGlynn, yesterday helped the British team pick up three out of five gold medals on offer in track cycling. Greek swimming champion Chara-lambos Taiganidis won silver. Greek swimmers gained the country's first two medals at the Paralympic Games yesterday, landing a silver and a bronze in Beijing.

Brazil's Andre Brasil opened the second night of swimming with a gold medal in the men's 100 fly - S10. He clocked a time of 59.13 to set the Paralympic record in the morning before posting a 56.47 for the world record at night.

Charl Bouwer of South African notched a world record in the men's 400 free - S13 with a time of 4:14.02, while the women's 400 free - S13 featured a pair of global standards. Canada's Valeria Grand Maison earned her second gold of the Games with a 4:28.64, while Russia's Anna Efimenko also cleared the previous record with a 4:37.37.

Ukraine's Oleksandr Mashchenko nabbed the men's 100 breast - SB11 crown in 1:12.36 to 1:12.86, over China's Yang Bozun. Ukrainian compatriot Maksym Veraksa then broke the world record in the men's 100 breast - SB12 with a time of 1:07.46 for gold. That beat his preliminary standard of 1:08.55.

Great Britain's David Roberts notched a meet record with a 1:00.82 in the men's 100 free - S7, while Erin Popovich of the U.S. become a two-time gold medalist with a meet-record time of 1:11.82 in the women's 100 free - S7.

American Anna Eames kept up the strong meet for the U.S. with a winning time of f1:09.44 in the women's 100 fly - S10.

Sweden's Anders Olsson set a world record in the men's 100 free - S6 with a 1:05.95. In the women's side of the event, Eleanor Simmonds of Great Britain, 13, won gold in 1:18.75. She beat Mirjam de Koning-Peper of the Netherlands who took silver in 1:19.29.

Mexico's Juan Reyes posted a world record in the men's 50 back - S4 preliminary session with a 42.71 before walking away with gold in 42.77 at night.

The men's 50 back - S5 followed as the world record went down several times. Brazil's Daniel Dias set the world record in the morning with a 36.46 before China's He Junquan lowered it in the next heat with a 35.04. Dias then beat out He in finals, 35.28 to 35.43. Notably, former Swimming World contributor Dave Denniston took 14th overall with a 53.07.

The women's 50 back - S5 featured Bela Hlavackova of the Czech Republic winning with a meet record time of 41.03 for her second medal overall.

Disabled Male Swimmer of the Year Matthew Cowdrey won the men's 100 free - S9 with a world record time of 55.30. That beat Guo Zhi of China's standard set in prelims with a 56.24. Guo wound up taking silver in 56.13.

South Africa's Natalie du Toit then earned another gold medal with a time of 1:01.44 in the women's 100 free - S9 to close the second day of competition

The women's 100 breast stroke - SB12 also featured a world record. Karolina Pelendritou of Cyprus set the global standard in prelims with a 1:16.82 before winning gold in 1:17.58.

Wang Xiaofu of China, who has been called the Paralympic Michael Phelps at times, set a meet record in the men's 100 free - S8 with a time of 58.84. Meanwhile, equally dominant Jessica Long of the U.S. won her second gold medal of the meet with a time of 1:06.91 in the women's 100 free - S8 after breaking her world record in the morning with a 1:06.81.

Du Toit won five golds and a silver at the Athens Paralympics. She lost her left leg in a road accident in 2001, after narrowly missing qualification for the Sydney Olympics a year earlier.

Saeed Rahmati of Iran lost to Algeria's Mouloud Noura in the final of the Men's -60Kg Judo competitions for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games held in Beijing Sunday, but won silver medal in this category.

Chinese shooter Lin Haiyan grabbed the gold medal in women's 10-meter air pistol at the Beijing Paralympics on Monday, with a total score of 467.7 points.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon congratulated on Sunday the swimmer Nelly Miranda, who won a gold medal during Beijing Paralympics, in China. Miranda, 36, on Sunday obtained the first medal of the Mexican delegation at the Paralympics. The determination of Miranda "is an example of willing and talent" for all the Mexicans, Calderon said in a communique sent by the office of the Republic Presidency.

New Zealand cyclist Paula Tesoriero has won a gold medal in the women's cycling at the Beijing Paralympics on Monday afternoon. Tesoriero won the 500m time trial in a world record time of 43:281 seconds and was less than a second ahead of the silver medalist Natalie Simanowski of Germany. LC3 means Locomotor (physical) disability level 3. LC3 athletes compete on bikes (not tandems or trikes as in other events) and other athletes in her event were classification LC4 and CP 4. LC 3: For athletes with a disability on one lower limb, with or without upper limb disability. Most athletes pedal with one leg. LC 4: For athletes with a more severe disability usually affecting both lower limbs, with or without upper limb disability. Cerebral Palsy (CP) Division 4: is for athletes with the least severe disability.

Barbara Warren, a prominent figure in the sport of triathlon who was a USA Triathlon national champion, frequent Team USA competitor, ITU world championship medalist and 13-time Ironman World Championship participant, died in Santa Barbara, Calif., following a weekend bike accident.



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