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Sunday, October 7, 2007

The 2007 Special Olympics in Shanghai is Happening

The 2007 Special Olympics Begins

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Spectators look at fire works during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games Tuesday Oct. 2, 2007 in Shanghai, China. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo)

From beginning to end, the show seemed to dazzle everyone in attendance. This opening ceremony rivaled that of any Olympic Games -- expect this is the Special Olympics.

Some 7,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities have converged in Shanghai, China, to compete in 25 events over the next nine days.

For many of the 400 American athletes at the event, it's their first time out of the country, much less halfway around the world.

Sporting Superstars

Shanghai has rolled out the red carpet for these athletes.

"I like being treated like a celebrity. It's real fun," American Marc Janovics said. "They worship me. It's cool."

Eighty thousand people attended the opening ceremony, including some of China's biggest stars and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Although these games are completely separate from next summer's Olympics, they are not that different in scale. This is by far the largest opening ceremony a Special Olympics has ever had.

For some, this opening ceremony is a sign of how far the program has come and how much awareness is growing for people with intellectual disabilities, especially in China, which is so often cast in a poor light for its human rights violations.

"Special Olympics really wants to open its door to places that want to learn about people with intellectual disabilities and … China is one of those places. We've been here for 25 years. It's been a slow road, but here we are in 2007, ,and, it's our largest program," Kristen Seckler, a Special Olympics spokeswoman, said.

And attitudes in China are starting to change.

"Being involved with Special Olympics helps me to know the athletes' courage," volunteer Charles Zhang said.

It's the courage to not only accept their disabilities but to compete and win in spite of them.


Keep up with what is happening at the Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai!!

The opening ceremony, lighting the fire, at the Special Olympics six days ago.

Landmark summit to be Special Olympics' legacy
By Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-10-04 08:38

SHANGHAI: International leaders from governments, healthcare bodies, NGOs, sports and businesses yesterday issued a global call to improve the treatment of and attitude to people with intellectual disabilities.

The pledge was made at a one-day global policy summit on the well-being of the intellectually disabled on the sidelines of the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

China will take the opportunity of the Special Olympics to further improve the welfare of the disadvantaged and take more effective measures to assist them, Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu told the summit yesterday.

The Chinese government considers opportunity creation for people with intellectual disabilities integral to building a harmonious society across a broad spectrum, Hui said.

China has improved relevant laws and regulations to better protect the interests of the disabled in the areas of medical care, education, employment, poverty relief and sports, he said.

The summit brought together a great collection of participants from more than 60 countries in an effort to educate, inform and act on critical issues facing individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Timothy Shiver, chairman of the Special Olympics, said the summit would underscore the importance of sport as a means to promote physical health and social inclusion.

"Through sport, Special Olympics lays a foundation for community-based development and advancement and the commitment made by leaders from all sectors will help further the opportunities and rights of people with intellectual disabilities," he said.

Using the powerful platform of sport, the global policy summit incorporated more than 30 scientific presentations about people with intellectual disabilities from around the world and especially offered an in-depth analysis of the progress that China had made and its plans to strengthen outreach to this vulnerable population as a world Games legacy.

"The Global Policy Summit is one of China's greatest legacies to the Special Olympics," said Wang Zhijun, chairman of Special Olympics China.

"We are honored to showcase 25 years of impact and development of essential resources serving China's intellectually disabled community in front of an unprecedented gathering of peers and influential global leaders," he said.

China is now the fastest growing program in the global Special Olympics family with athlete numbers reaching 500,000 by the end of 2005, 10 times the figure in 2000. This follows the country's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last year.

The summit yesterday also announced the establishment of a partnership between Special Olympics and UNICEF in a bid to advance the rights of children with intellectual disabilities.

Working together, the two organizations will advocate improved health care, education, recreational sports and employment policies that will benefit children with intellectual disabilities.

"This new partnership will help make the point that children with disabilities have the same rights as all other children," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.

"They are entitled to adequate health care and quality education, and to live in an environment that protects them from abuse, exploitation and disease."

She said that sport plays a critical role in the health and wellbeing of children with disabilities, explaining it helps boost self-esteem and physical and psychological rehabilitation.

Timothy Shiver, chairman of the Special Olympics, said the collaborative effort was in keeping with the goals of the to dilute stigma and promote inclusion in developing countries.

The UNICEF-Special Olympics partnership will initially focus on eight pilot countries including China, Bulgaria, Cambodia and Uzbekistan.


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