China is preparing to hold its first Olympic Games this year, and along with it, the Paralympics Games for disabled athletes. Chinese officials acknowledge that they are far behind in providing equal access for the country's disabled citizens, and they hope the games will help improve the situation. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
Beijing wants to host a festive Olympics this year and officials say the Paralympics should be equal in splendor.
Beijing has built new facilities for the games and for training China's disabled athletes.
Chinese officials say there are 83 million people with disabilities in China and two million of them play sports.
Cao Qiuping hopes to play basketball for the Chinese team. She says the Paralympic Games will help reduce prejudice in China against the disabled. "A lot of people take [disabled people] to be obedient and docile. In fact, it's not like this. Their understanding is wrong. We want to use this opportunity to show them the real appearance of handicapped people."
An estimated 4,000 athletes from 150 countries are expected in Beijing for the Paralympics.
Officials say they will provide them with the same quality services as Olympic athletes and should have no problem meeting their needs.
Beijing plans to provide accessible buses and subway cars for getting disabled athletes and spectators to the Paralympic events.
But most public transport still lacks access facilities, cutting disabled athletes off from most of the city when they visit for the games. Officials say they will make the city more accessible, but they warn that Beijing will likely lag behind cities in more developed nations.
"We hope through the work of preparing for the Paralympics we can in Beijing reach national standards. But quickly reaching common, but rather high, international standards is difficult for all places," says Tang Xiaoquan, who is a director with the China Disabled People's Federation.
Beijing says, for the first time in Paralympics history, the city will pay all travel expenses for disabled athletes and team officials.