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7th National Games for the Disabled Opens
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Chinese vice premier Hui Liangyu declared the 7th Chinese National Games for the Disabled open on Saturday, which will run to May 20 in both Kunming, the capital of China's southwest province of Yunnan, and neighboring city of Yuxi.

The Games featured the participation of 2,251 athletes from 35 delegations for the biggest ever one of the kind in the country, including Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions.

The 7th Games features 20 sports of archery, athletics, badminton, basketball for the deaf, boccia, cycling, football for the blind, football for the cerebral palsy, football for the deaf, goal ball for the blind, judo for the blind, power lifting, shooting, swimming, table tennis, volleyball sitting, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis.

Among them, five sports of archery, basketball for the deaf, cycling, wheelchair fencing and wheelchair tennis have concluded their competitions last year.

Swimmer Wang Xiaofu, who has five world records to his credit and will compete in nine events at the Games, set flame to a phoenix that flew to ignite the cauldron of the 7th National Games for the Disabled at the opening ceremony.

The flames were collected simultaneously from five special places of Yunnan Province on Jan. 19 and began the relay by turns from Jan. 22 in five routes, before gathering in Kunming on Feb. 2 when the "Flame of Civilization, Flame of Nature, Flame of Purity, Flame of Power, Flame of Victory" merged to become the "Flame of Harmony".

Philip Graven, president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), sent IPC's greetings and congratulations in a letter for the Games.

"China has made great strides in Paralympic sports development and this will be showcased at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. As an important member of the Paralympic family, China is making valuable contributions to this movement," the president said. 

"In addition to the exciting 2008 Paralympic Games, Guangzhou will host the next Asian Games of Disabled Persons. What really pleases me is that I know that China is involved in Paralympic sport for the long journey into the future. This assures me in the knowledge that I shall see great Paralympic teams from China at each edition of the Paralympic Games," Graven said.

Qin Guangrong, president of the local organizing committee of the Games for the Disabled, said "the 7th Chinese National Games for the Disabled is the last prior to the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 and will play an important role for the Chinese athletes as a tune-up for their performance in the world arena."

"It is also for the first time that the National Games for the Disabled is being held in western China," said Qin.

The hosts have built the Xinyao Sports Complex, re-furbished 14 other sports facilities and set up non-obstacle equipment for the 26 reception hotels.

A total of 400 vehicles of different kinds have been put into use, including 80 special buses for those in wheelchairs, 115 bus stops in Kunming alone have been specially rebuilt, blind sidewalks have been paved and slopes have been constructed at the bus stops for the blind and those in wheelchairs.

Electric bells have been put up for the blind at the pedestrian crossings and safety islands in the middle of the crossings were specially designed to make way for wheelchairs.

Apart from 5,000 volunteers, 2,700 taxi drivers have also offer free drives voluntarily up till now for the athletes and those registered members of the Games in the city.

Qin also hopes that China will continue to win the most gold medals in the Beijing Paralympics after topping the tally for the first time in Athens in 2004.

(Xinhua News Agency May 13, 2007)

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