GUANGZHOU - It is a new chapter for the Paralympics movement in Asia, as the inaugural Asian Para Games opened its arms to around 2,500 disabled athletes from all around the continent here on Sunday.
Li Keqiang, Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, declared open the games to the roaring cheers of 60,000 spectators in the Aoti Main Stadium in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province.
Asia has a long and proud history in staging major Paralympic events, dating back to the first FESPIC Games (the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled) in 1975. But it is the first time that a multi-sport para games run parallel to the Asian Games.
After the dissolution of the FESPIC Games (the parallel sport event for disabled Pacific and East Asian athletes), the final FESPIC held in November 2006 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And then, the FESPIC Games was replaced by the Asian Para Games, leaving the first host city Guangzhou with no precedent for preparation.
After just two years of preparation, the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Para Games Organizing Committee (GAPGOC) is ready for the new born event to embark and their well-organized preparation work is labelled as a "benchmark" by the president of Asian Paralympic Committee Dato' Zainal Abu Zarin for the future host cities to follow.
More than 25,000 volunteers are trained to provide assistance for disabled athletes. They have received special training in details including how to express their willingness to help and how to push wheelchair to make disabled persons feel comfortable.
Accessible facilities, such as rampways, blind walkways and lower counters in the Games Village as well as other parts of the city has been set up or renewed to make sure the athletes can enjoy a barrier-free Asian Para Games with the official slogan "We Cheer, We Share, We Win".
An emotional opening ceremony which highlights the power of love and caring for the disabled people is also part of GAPGOC's "benchmarking" preparation.
A visually impaired boy named He Yuxuan was spot-lighted at the beginning of the ceremony. Although he can't see the national flag with his own eyes, the eight-year-old pupil carried the flag in his hands with his mother walking along, handed the flag to the honor guards and saluted as the flag was raised.
Mothers of disabled athletes were also honored during the ceremony. Mothers of disabled athletes from different Asian countries and regions entered the stadium, sang and cheered for their children as the athletes paraded into the stadium. Mothers hugged and kissed their children when they passed by, presenting flowers, mascots, and their blessings to the athletes. They were also joined by more than 300 mothers of children with a disability from all over China.
Host China concluded the athletes parade with Beijing Paralympic wheelchair fencing champion Hu Daoliang holding the national flag.
The Chinese delegation was made up of 614 members including 431 athletes and 183 officials, coaches and working staff, which is the biggest disabled athletes delegation that China has ever assembled for international multi-sport Games. They will compete in all the 19 sports, among which badminton and tenpin bowling are non-Paralympic sports.
The regional sport power has already set their goals beyond the medals, aiming to show not only good performance in the competitions but also their image of unremitting self-improving and high-level sport moral.
The competitions of Guangzhou 2010 Asian Para Games will begin on Dec 13 and the Games will end on Dec 19.