- Title: CHINA: PARALYMPICS - China's paralympic athletes prepare for the 2008 games
- Date: 21st November 2007
- Summary: VARIOUS: PLAYERS IN WHEELCHAIRS PLAYING BASKETBALL (5 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 6th December 2007 12:00
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: Health,Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA4YDM96RYQQ2YDJ7ULRDXLLDI1
- Story Text: Chinese Paralympic athletes are sparing no effort to prepare for the games being held in Beijing in 2008. They hope the games will attract long-awaited attention from their compatriots in a country which has 82 million registered disabled people.
Chinese paralympics athletes are sparing no effort to prepare for the Paralympic Games being held in the capital in 2008, athletes and sports officials said on Wednesday (November 21). They vowed to do their best for the pride of their country in the games, and also attract often-neglected attention from fellow countrymen.
Nearly one million registered disabled people live in Beijing, with another estimated 81 million, roughly the population of Germany, in the rest of the country.
Over 200 Chinese athletes have qualified for next year's Paralympics, and China has a base of nearly 4,000 athletes who have participated in international or national competitions, according to the deputy head of China's Paralympics Association Tang Xiaoquan.
Zhao Maomao, aged 12, is a table tennis player and a potential future star for the team. She has lost one arm, but is dedicated to the sport despite her physical difficulties.
"I want to play the ball well at any time, and become a champion for the Paralympics, and be the pride of the country," she said.
Yang Bozun is a 21-year-old swimmer in the national team. He has won over 14 gold medals in international games. A former music student, he lost his eyesight when he was 19 from an illness.
As 2008 is drawing nearer, he felt nervous but also excited, he said.
"We have very clear aims, although we are not sure how many gold medals we will have, but we are trying our best, and sparing no effort, in order to have our best performance and achieve the best results in next year's games," Yang said.
The Paralympics will be held in Beijing from September 6 to 17, 2008.
They are the first to be organised by the same body as the Summer Olympics, which will have closed two weeks earlier.
The Chinese government has vowed to give more attention to the often-neglected disabled population. More special facilities will be built in the Great Wall, Forbidden City and other parts of the country to make life easier for the group, government official Tang Xiaoquan said.
Currently, conditions are not ideal for China's disabled population.
Only seven percent of those in Beijing are employed, and many around the country are facing discrimination.
Chinese sports authorities said China needed more time to improve living conditions for the disabled.
"In our country, because the industries concerning disabled people started quite late, despite our efforts to push it forward, it takes time," Tang Xiaoquan said.
Huang Jianhong, a 36-year-old basketball player in the national Paralympics team, hoped the games would make more people aware about the group.
"Chinese society should pay more attention to the disabled people, and normal people have little chance to contact us. The lack of communication has caused a gulf between us," Huang said.
In April, a Chinese official said disabled Chinese face discrimination and lack of support such as the use of wheelchairs and hearing aids.
Less than half of urban residents who need aids, such as false limbs, can get them due mainly to high costs. In the vast and poor countryside, no more than two percent of people who need such aids get them, according to Xu Xiaoming, director of the China Disabled People's Equipment Development Centre.
Last October, China staged the 2007 Special Olympics for competitors with mental disabilities. In addition to burnishing China's international image, the Special Olympics fit closely with President Hu Jintao's domestic political goal. Hu has promoted to create a "harmonious society", promoting social solidarity and concern for the disadvantaged.
Analysts have said this is a move to ease the tensions caused by the breakneck economic growth.
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