Thursday, August 28, 2008

Paralympics will "change attitudes"

The Paralympics will provide the ideal opportunity for the Chinese public to improve its awareness and understanding of people with physical disabilities, a senior Beijing official said on Wednesday.

Li Caimao, director of the municipal government's disabled persons' affairs committee, said: "Society's lack of knowledge about disabled people is what leads to misunderstanding."

Two volunteers learn the skill of making handicrafts from a handicapped person at the Warm Family of Xicheng District Handicapped Association, the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games volunteers training base, in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 22, 2008.
But staging the Paralympic Games, which runs from Sept 6-17, will go a long way to improving that, he said.

Li, who has suffered from polio since the age of 3, said in the past his condition hindered his attempts to win a place at a top university.

"There are no such barriers to getting into college these days. Everyone has equal rights," he said.

"But there is still discrimination."

Changing the attitudes of the public takes time, but the Paralympics will help, he said.

China has 83 million disabled people, about 6 percent of the population, Li said.

About 1 million live in the capital, he said.

More than 200,000 disabled people from Beijing have been or will be involved in Olympic and Paralympic-related activities, and 12,000 applied to work as volunteers, he said.

Sixty-three disabled volunteers will work at Paralympic venues and 680 disabled performers will be involved in the Games' opening and closing ceremonies, he said.

Over the course of the Games, 1,500 disabled artists will take part in events at Beijing's cultural squares, while 10 blind masseurs will provide relief to athletes at sports venues, he said.

One of the advantages of staging the Paralympics is that it brings the needs of disabled people to the fore, Li said.

As part of its preparations for hosting the Games, Beijing has equipped its subways, airports and railway stations with special facilities for the disabled, he said.

Zhao Chunluan, head of the Beijing Disabled Persons' Federation, told a press conference on Sunday that 20,000 disabled people and their families will be invited to watch the Paralympics venues.

Of the 1.66 million tickets on sale, the best seats at the most popular events have all been reserved for disabled people.

Also, every volunteer for the Paralympics, most of whom are able bodied, will undergo about 20 hours of training on how to deal with people with disabilities, he said.

Over the past few years, Beijing has significantly increased the quality and number of services it offers its disabled residents, Zhao said.

In 2006, the Xicheng district government built a service center at a cost of 30 million yuan , he said.

All registered disabled people can use its rehabilitation facilities, as well as enjoy a range of leisure activities, he said.


Olympics stimulates interest in cycling

For most Chinese, cycling conjures up two very different images: on the one hand, a familiar form of transportation; on the other, an esoteric European sport.

All that is about to change, thanks to the Olympic Games. A record-breaking seven Chinese riders were entered in the Games, and public interest in competitive cycling has never been greater.

"The Olympics is a perfect showcase for Chinese cycling," Chinese Cycling Association president Jiang Guofeng said. "People are seeing that there is much more to cycling than just transportation."

On the opening day of the Games, Chinese Central Television covered the men's road race live. Last Tuesday, the women's sprint, in which Guo Shuang took the bronze medal, attracted national attention.

Tickets for the track and mountain bike events were sold out in April, according to the organizers.

"Cycling hasn't had much public exposure in China, but Chinese fans got to know it through the Olympics," Guo said.

Guo, who is perhaps China's best known cyclist, started cycling competitively when she was 13. In 2002, she was sent to the World Cycling Training Center in 2002 to train with French coach Sebastien Dulcus.

France's gold medal winner Julien Absalon rides through a downhill section in the men's cross country mountain bike race at the Laoshan Cycling venue in Beijing during the Beijing Olympics on August 23. AFP

Guo signaled her progress with a podium finish at the 2006 World Championships. At the Asian Games in Doha later that year, she won two golds. Sports authorities then hired Daniel Morelon - another Frenchman and a four-time Olympic champion in the 1960s and 1970s - who guided Guo to silver medals in the kierin and the sprint at the 2007 World Championships. She placed fourth in the 2008 World Championships in March.

But Guo is the exception to the rule. Most Chinese do not get professional coaching, and few get a chance to compete internationally.

"People treat us like pandas in Europe," said Guo. "I thought we were a cycling country, but in the world of competitive cycling, we are actually outsiders."

Unlike European countries, where children are exposed to cycling at an early age, relatively few Chinese are recruited and trained by local sports academies. A budding Lance Armstrong or Carlos Sastre may never be discovered, since China has limited opportunities for junior cyclists and only two major events, the annual National Championships and National Games, which take place every four years.

But Jiang believes the situation is changing.

"We have nothing to build on, because there isn't any competitive cycling tradition in China," he admitted. "The first thing we are looking to do is to promote the sport nationwide."

According to the International Cycling Union , a ProTour race is likely to take place in China within two years. Also, the sport is starting to catch on at the grass-roots level, thanks to the efforts of the CCA and of major bike companies, which have started to invest in China's colossal but largely untapped market.

The United States manufacturer Trek stages several national amateur races each year and sponsors China's only professional team, Marco Polo.

Since 2005, the CCA has sent more than 20 riders overseas to compete in more than 30 events a year, which enables them to improve their skills faster than if they remained in China.

This effort appears to be paying off. Guo took the bronze in the women's sprint last Tuesday and nearly got the silver; she was disqualified for bumping Anna Meares of Australia in the semifinal.

In addition Li Yan reached the final of the women's point race, finishing 10th, while Zhang Liang became the first Chinese to compete in the men's road race, although he failed to finish.

China's mountain bikers, Ren Chengyuan finished fifth and Liu Ying came 12th in the women's event.

While BMX rider Ma Liyun became the first ever Chinese rider to compete at the Olympics.

"I've seen an all-around improvement in Chinese cycling," Ma said during a press conference held by Nike. "It's just a matter of time before we can be a force in the world."

China's progress is already being acknowledged by elite riders.

"There's no doubt they are moving up," said men's road race gold medalist Samuel Sanchez.

"You have to be patient. It takes a long time to build a cycling tradition. But as long as you have a good foundation, it is just a matter of time before Chinese riders win major events around the world."

Source:China Daily

Ivanovic wins ugly, Federer cruises

NEW YORK: Ana Ivanovic needed every scrap of her youthful ebullience on Tuesday to narrowly avoid the humiliation of becoming the first top-seeded woman to lose in the opening round of the US Open.

It took the 20-year-old Serbian just over two hours to make her standing as world No 1 count against a valiant Vera Dushevina and she booked her place in round two with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 triumph.

Roger Federer may no longer occupy the top spot in the men's rankings after being dethroned by Rafael Nadal last week but he showed he was still the man to beat after handing obscure Argentine Maximo Gonzalez a 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 masterclass.

From 3-3 in the first set, the four-times champion hit cruise control to win 10 successive games and it took him only 82 minutes to complete victory.

"It's been a hard year ... the Olympic doubles gold really gave me a great lift and I'm really inspired to do well here," said Federer, who rescued a less than stellar season by striking gold in Beijing with Stanislas Wawrinka.

Ivanovic also needed some inspiration to stay alive on Tuesday.

Playing as if she had taken a leaf out of Brad Gilbert's tennis manual 'Winning Ugly' or perhaps still troubled by a right thumb injury which ruled her out of the Olympics, Ivanovic randomly misfired her shots to notch up 40 unforced errors.

It led to a fan screaming out in desperation: "You're number one for a reason." She heeded the call to subdue the 57th-ranked Russian on her third match point.

"It was ugly, to put it mildly," summed up John McEnroe, who was commentating on the match for an American network.

Realizing how close she had come to establishing an unwanted record, Ivanovic said: "I really hope I can stick around for some time."

Hot streak

Her potential quarterfinal opponent, sixth seed Dinara Safina, kept up her recent hot streak to beat grand slam debutante Kristie Ahn 6-3, 6-4.

Slovakian 11th seed Daniela Hantuchova, however, fell by the wayside when she was flattened 6-4, 6-2 by qualifier Anna-Lena Groenefeld. Tommy Haas completed a good day for the Germans when he ousted men's 12th seed Richard Gasquet 6-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2.

Safina made no allowances for Ahn, who at 16 is the youngest woman in the draw, and showed off her repertoire of groundstrokes and thundering serves to get her campaign off to a flying start.

The Russian is one of five players who could topple Ivanovic from the top spot by the end of the tournament should the Serbian trip up early.

French Open runner-up Safina, who has a 16-1 win-loss record since Wimbledon, was joined by her hot-headed brother Marat Safin in the last 64.

Safin raged and ranted at umpire Carlos Bernades after he was controversially foot-faulted on a second serve late in the fourth set against Vince Spadea.

With Bernades refusing to overturn the call - which gave Spadea set point - Safin turned the air blue, incurred a warning and slumped into his chair refusing to play on.

The incident effectively cost the former world No 1 the set but he eventually put a lid on his emotions to carve out a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win.

"It's stupid rules that somebody made in 1850 and now they give me the problems with these things and it shouldn't be that way," fumed Safin, the 2000 champion.

"How can a guy see ... a foot fault... with sunglasses from 35 feet away? It doesn't make any sense."

Fourth seed Serena Williams relied on her 20/20 vision as she began her title charge with a 6-1, 6-4 thumping of Kateryna Bondarenko and her sister Venus protected the family reputation with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Samantha Stosur.

Former Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo flirted with danger before she defeated fellow Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

After compatriots Li Na and Zheng Jie won their first-round matches on Monday, Peng Shuai continued China's hot run at the US Open, allowing Eleni Daniilidou of Greece only one game before winning 6-1, 6-0.

Source:China Daily/Agencies

FACTBOX: Chinese efforts to assist the diabled

The torch was lit on Thursday for the nine-day relay for the Beijing Paralympics. The relay begins on Friday; the Paralympics runs from Sept. 6-17.

Here is some key information about China's disabled population. All data from the China Disabled Persons' Federation unless otherwise stated.

DISABLED POPULATION: About 82.7 million, including 12.3 million with visual disabilities, 20 million with hearing disabilities, 1.3 million with speech disabilities, 24.1 million with physical disabilities, 5.5 million mentally retarded, 6.1 million with psychiatric disabilities and 13.5 million with multiple disabilities.

LEGAL STATUS: The Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities was adopted at the 17th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Seventh National People's Congress, the top legislature, on Dec. 28, 1990 and revised on April 24 this year.

At end-2007, there were 2,677 legal aid centers for the disabled that had handled more than 20,000 discrimination cases.

REHABILITATION: In 2007, some 53.6 million people received a wide range of services. These included 800,000 cataract operations, mobility training for more than 12,000 blind people, hearing aids for about 6,000 low-income deaf children, and special training for more than 1,000 autistic children.

Almost 4,000 corrective surgeries were carried out on lepers and 23,000 low-cost artificial limbs were provided to various patients. About 950,000 other devices were supplied.

More than 5,800 rehabilitation centers for the physically disabled were set up and training was provided to 88,000 people. Some 26,000 children aged below 14 with intellectual disabilities were treated.

Community-based rehabilitation services were provided to 5.6 million people.

EDUCATION: There were 1,667 special schools and 2,803 special classes affiliated with mainstream schools for blind, deaf and intellectually disabled children, enrolling 580,000 students.

CULTURE: At end-2007, China had 35 provincial level libraries with Braille and audio reading materials. At the city level, there were 259 libraries with such materials.

NATIONAL DAY FOR THE DISABLED: Since 1991, the third Sunday of May has been designated for this purpose.


Premier Wen lights Beijing Paralympic flame at Temple of Heaven

The Paralympic torch was lit at the Beijing Paralympic flame lighting ceremony in the Temple of Heaven on Thursday.
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao lit the Beijing Paralympic flame was at the ancient Temple of Heaven in Beijing on Thursday, kicking off the torch relay across China before the 13th Paralympics open on Sept. 6.

In front of the symbolic Hall of Annual Prayer, deaf-mute flamecollector Jiang Xintian lit the flame out of a concave, burnished mirror. The flame was then handed to a wheelchair-ridden girl, before it lit a torch held by Liu Qi, president of the organizing committee of the just concluded Beijing Olympic Games.

Liu passed the torch to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who lit a cauldron and announced the beginning of the 10-day torch relay.

The sacred flame will be sent to Xi'an in Northwest China and Shenzhen in the south, where the relay will be launched on Friday and Saturday respectively.

Speakers at the lighting ceremony included Deng Pufang, chairman of the China Disabled Persons Federation, and President of the International Paralympic Committee Philip Craven.

The Paralympic torch was lit at the Beijing Paralympic flame lighting ceremony in the Temple of Heaven on Thursday.
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Remember the Olympic heroines without gold medals

1. Under the guidance of Coach Chen Zhonghe, the Chinese women's volleyball team, with their indomitable spirit, tell us they are worthy of the four Chinese characters of "women's volleyball spirit", and finally winning a bronze medal.
The athletes who won the medals at the Olympic Games always win the most applause and good wishes. However, there is a group of people, who perennially work quietly and hard and who do not ultimately get gold medals, but exude an admirable Olympic spirit.

We should not forget all those who struggle for the Olympics, they are also Olympic heroes!

By People's Daily Online

Remember the Olympic heroines without gold medals (2)

2. Su Li-wen, Chinese Taipei taekwondo fighter: she held on until the end of the game with one good leg. Although women's 57kg class taekwondo competitor Su Li-wen did not get a medal, she had won the hearts of Taiwan people.
The athletes who won the medals at the Olympic Games always win the most applause and good wishes. However, there is a group of people, who perennially work quietly and hard and who do not ultimately get gold medals, but exude an admirable Olympic spirit.

We should not forget all those who struggle for the Olympics, they are also Olympic heroes!

By People's Daily Online