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Lasting legacies, changing attitudes ensure society is the real winner

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-03-14 07:10
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The comprehensive barrier-free facilities that were installed at the venues for the Beijing Winter Paralympics will continue to benefit people with disabilities in future. Agencies

The curtain came down on the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics on Sunday, but the positive influence of the Games will continue to be felt by Chinese people with disabilities and society in general for decades to come.

One of the most immediate effects is expected to be wider participation in para winter sports.

"Young kids who have disabilities are now watching the Paralympics on TV and seeing people who look like them, and that's hugely important," said Craig Spence, the International Paralympic Committee's chief brand and communications officer.

"We've got 15-year-olds here, we've got 16-year-olds on the podium. They're going to be inspiring younger kids, watching the Paralympic Winter Games now - who in four years could be competing at Milan Cortina (2026 Games) and winning a medal."

According to Zhao Weidong, a spokesperson for the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee (BOCOG), over 300,000 Chinese people with disabilities currently participate in winter sports - a huge increase on the 10,000 that took part when China initially began organizing these activities in 2016.

"The Beijing Paralympic Winter Games have produced and will continue to produce various legacies," said Zhao.

"I think these legacies will further promote the development of sports for persons with disabilities. With the increasing popularity of ice and snow sports, our next step is to further promote the development of winter sports nationwide."

The improvements in accessibility are also an important legacy.

According to BOCOG, about 336,000 sites have been adjusted for accessibility for persons with disabilities in Beijing over the past three years. About 12,000 buses have been upgraded to cater to wheelchair users, while 500 barrier-free taxis are also operating in the capital.

After the Winter Paralympics, these numbers will continue to grow across the nation.

"The city of Zhangjiakou, for instance, has been working on upgrading its barrier-free environment in public areas and transportation junctions," said Liu Xinghua, the director of Beijing 2022's legacy department.

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