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Paralympics on track as organizers eye lasting legacy

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2020-12-03 09:03
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Locals try their hand at curling at Beijing's Shougang Industrial Park as part of a Paralympic promotional event on Wednesday. XINHUA

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing's preparations for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games remain on track, with the promotion of inclusiveness and para-sports participation high on organizers' agenda.

With 456 days to go before the Games open on March 4 next year, organizers are already witnessing a growing interest in para winter sports, highlighted by an event held on Wednesday at west Beijing's Shougang Industrial Park to celebrate the annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Cheered on by officials from the China Disabled Persons' Federation, local residents with disabilities, their able-bodied counterparts and some Beijing 2022 organizers enjoyed the fun of wheelchair curling and ice-sledge hockey at the event, which was also part of the fifth annual para winter sports festival, organized by the disabled federation.

China's history-making wheelchair curling team, which won the country's first Winter Paralympics gold medal in 2018 in South Korea, shared their inspirational stories with participants while also giving them tips on how to slide stones on the artificial-ice surfaces at the venue.

"Today's event serves as a great example of how can we further improve the awareness of inclusiveness, equality and accessibility in society by organizing para-sports events," said Zhou Changkui, a vice-president of the Beijing 2022 organizing committee and director-general of the disabled federation.

"Preparations for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games have provided us with an important opportunity to keep promoting all the values and infrastructures that help boost the sports participation and welfare of disabled people."

The Beijing Paralympic Winter Games will take place in the capital's downtown area, its northwest Yanqing district and co-host city Zhangjiakou, Hebei province.

Athletes will compete in 78 events across six sports-alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ice-sledge hockey and wheelchair curling.

Even with the pandemic derailing Beijing's plans to host a series of 2022 test events this winter, the organizing committee reiterated that preparations for the Games, including venue construction and installation of barrier-free operations, are progressing on track.

"Our preparations have entered the final readiness stage ahead of schedule," said Yang Jinkui, director of the Beijing 2022 organizing committee's Paralympic Games department.

"We are now focusing on finalizing the operational details at our venues and Games infrastructures to address the needs of para athletes.

"Hopefully, the preparation will leave abundant legacies for the development of para sports, and improve accessibility and equality for disabled people in China."

All the competition venues for the Games will be completed by the end of this year, while an illustrative version of barrier-free service guidelines has been published to help organizers prepare for the transformation of venues, athlete villages and transport terminals in the window between the Olympics and Paralympics.

After hearing reports from Beijing 2022 organizers at a virtual project review meeting last month, Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, heaped praise on the preparatory work.

"Having set Beijing 2022 the target of taking the Paralympic Winter Games to the next level, they continue to make strong progress despite the unprecedented challenges they face as an organizing committee," said Parsons.

"The Games in Beijing offer immense potential and will do much to advance the rights of people with disabilities in China."

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