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Games Official Calls for Better Understanding
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A top Olympic committee official yesterday called for better understanding of people with physical disabilities on the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.


"We need to have more modern ideas about disabled people and their participation in the Olympics," Tang Xiaoquan, executive vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), said.


She said that such things as traffic laws were made because people get injured in road accidents, and that part of the reason medical science develops is to help people who are born with disabilities.


Such tragic events and situations spur improvements and reforms in many areas, she said.


"Disabled people have the same dignity and rights as other social groups. Sport is not only a good way to improve one's physical health, but also a way to self-fulfillment and making contributions to the motherland," Tang said.


Next year will be the first time in Olympic history that the Summer Games and Paralympic Games have been organized by the same host committee and to the same standards.


"By hosting the Paralympics we have an opportunity to show our commitment to helping disabled people in China," Tang said.


"Giving more respect and care to people with disabilities also embodies the theme of the 'Human Olympics' of the Beijing Games."


According to the recent Second China National Sample Survey on Disability, China has 82.96 million people with disabilities, some 6.34 percent of the population.


Tang said that as a result of the country's rapid economic development and improved living standards, people have begun to pay more attention to the needs of disadvantaged people and made efforts to improve their lives.


But China still has a long way to go to provide comprehensive facilities for disabled people, she said.


"There are places that offer disabled access, but they are not well-connected and better planning is needed. Disabled people still have problems getting around," Tang said.


Beijing is in the process of providing disabled access at a number of popular temples and museums in the city, including the Dajue Temple, Zhihua Temple, Five-Pagoda Temple, Great Bell Temple, White Pagoda Temple, Longevity Temple, Confucius Temple and the Imperial Academy. The projects, which will cost more than 1 million yuan (US$130,000), will be completed this year.


Improved facilities for disabled people will also be provided next year at some of Beijing's other tourist spots, including the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Lama Temple and Beihai Park.


During the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, which runs from September 6-17, some 4,000 disabled athletes from 150 countries and regions will visit the capital.


A guide to facilities for disabled people in the city will be published to coincide with the Games.


"It is a big challenge for Beijing to provide a first-class service to disabled people from around the world. But I am quite confident the Paralympics will leave a great legacy for China, both spiritually and materially."


(China Daily May 25, 2007)

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