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Paralympics raise equal opportunities: IPC president

Updated: 2013-12-12 10:49
( Agencies)

RIO DE JANEIRO - The Paralympic Games has raised social awareness of equal opportunities for all individuals, said Philip Craven, newly elected president of the International Paralympics Committee, on Wednesday.

Craven is in the "Wonderful City" to celebrate 1,000-day countdown to the 2016 Paralympics.

The Paralympics Games have grown from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948 to become one of the largest international sporting events by the early 21st century. The Paralympics take place every two years alternating between summer and winter Games, said Philip Craven to a small group of international media representatives in Rio de Janeiro.

On July 29, 1948, the day of the opening ceremony of the 1948 London Olympic Games, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes which he named the Stoke Mandeville Games. They involved 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in archery. In 1952, Dutch ex-servicemen joined the movement and the International Stoke Mandeville Games were founded.

These games later became the Paralympic Games which first took place in Rome in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries and regions. Since then they have taken place every four years. In 1976 the first Paralympic Winter Games were held in Sweden, and as with the Summer Games, have taken place every four years since then.

"The Paralympics Games have amazing effect on changing perceptions, what we want to achieve long-lasting changes to the society, they have several positive reasons. The Paralympic Games unlike laws which tell people what they have to do, they raise social awareness of equal opportunities for all individuals," Craven said.

The Paralympic Games encompass the unique spirit of the Paralympic athletes who seek to accomplish what the general public deems unexpected, but what the athletes knows as a truth. Their performance and incredible stories teach the values of acceptance and appreciation for people with an impairment, added the IPC president, a former wheelchair basketball player.

Asked about what the Beijing Paralympics impressed him the most, he said: "The Beijing Paralympics were amazing."

It is unforgettable seeing that fans filling the landmark National Stadium "Bird's Nest" to watch Paralympic sports, said Craven.

The Beijing Paralympics were wonderful in quantity and quality, they attracted historic high media coverage and attention from around the world, he added.

According to Craven,the Beijing Paralympics made the world begin to know China, to know the people of China. "The games convinced me that the Chinese are hospitable, passionate and emotional as the other people in the world," he said.

As to the Rio's Paralympics, he said, from the organizer's point of view, there is no significant troubles here, "it has similar sports, similar athletes, similar size to the two former games" in Beijing and London.

Anyway, he underlined that it would be important for Brazil to accomplish the construction work on time, even though Brazil still has time, but it's better to go fast, because in the last year to the games it will have a lot of communications and receptions to do.

On Thursday, Craven will participate in the celebration of 1,000-day countdown to the 2016 Paralympics and will meet the authorities of Rio de Janeiro. He will go to the Olympic village in Barra da Tijuca, in the west of Rio de Janeiro, and inspect the construction work.

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