Shanghai yesterday succeeded in winning its bid to host the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
The decision was announced by Special Olympics International officials in the city. The decision comes nearly a year after the Chinese Government launched a historic five-year plan to boost the Special Olympics movement in China, including the ambitious goal of attracting 500,000 new Special Olympics athletes by 2005.
Tim Shriver, president and chief executive of Special Olympics International, said: "China is our movement's future... Its leadership in building Special Olympics opportunities in communities throughout the country is second to none."
Special Olympics International is the organizer of the world's largest program of sports training and athletics competitions for mentally disabled children and adults. The movement's vision is to double the number of participating athletes worldwide to 2 million by the year 2005.
China's success in winning the bid means that it will be the first time such an event will have been held in Asia. This is expected to strongly boost the Special Olympics cause in Asia as a whole, as well as in China.
Currently, China has more than 60 million disabled people, including 12 million mentally disabled individuals. The host city of Shanghai itself has about 70,000 mentally disabled people.
The strong Special Olympics programs in China, substantial government support and the outstanding sports venues and accommodation facilities in Shanghai are the major factors behind Special Olympics International's decision, according to officials of the organization.
Shanghai Mayor Chen Liangyu said: "Our city is excited to promote the Special Olympics and its athletes from today until the event in 2007 and into the future. I'm confident the city of Shanghai and its citizens will stage a brilliant games."
In addition to some 7,000 athletes, the event in the city is expected to attract 40,000 volunteers, 3,500 event officials, and thousands of families, spectators and journalists from more than 150 countries or regions worldwide.
The athletes will compete at different ability levels in 20 Olympic-type sports, including athletics, basketball, equestrianism, judo and sailing. They will demonstrate their athletic skills, determination and courage while gaining opportunities to better integrate into society.
Shanghai will raise about US$30 million to host the games, which will come from corporate sponsorship, government support and community donations.
In order to better prepare for the event, the city will soon map out its own Special Olympics five-year plan and intensify its efforts to mobilize qualified volunteers and boost the development of those Special Olympics sports still unknown in the country, according to Shi Derong, director of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.
(China Daily May 25, 2002)