Beijing begins Paralympics preparations, highlighting humanity, warmth and considerable care
Published: Feb 21, 2022 10:24 PM Updated: Feb 21, 2022 11:10 PM
Three snowmen stand outside the National Stadium on February 21, 2022 where Beijing will host the Winter Paralympic Games in March. Photo: IC

Three snowmen stand outside the National Stadium on February 21, 2022 where Beijing will host the Winter Paralympic Games in March. Photo: IC

Shortly after the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics came to a successful conclusion, Beijing has begun to switch its facilities and venues from the Winter Olympic Games to the Paralympic Winter Games, which will start on March 4 and welcome about 600 athletes from around the world. 

With the largest ever Chinese sports delegation of a total of 217 people to the winter Paralympics, authorities, organizing staff and volunteers in three competition zones - Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou - have been preparing the facilities and venues equipped with technologies-powered barrier-free design, highlighting the humane, warm and considerable care. 

Zhang Haidi, chairwoman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, was appointed as head of the delegation. The Chinese delegation is made up of 217 members including 96 athletes, 68 male and 28 female athletes, as well as 121 staffers responsible for coaching, assistance and healthcare, according to a news release from the China Disabled Persons' Federation on Monday. 

Zhang was also the Chinese chef de mission to the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021. 

The average age of the athletes is 25 - the youngest is 17 and the oldest 45. Among them, 85 will participate in the Winter Paralympics for the first time, accounting for 88.5 percent of the total.

Although the Olympic flame was extinguished Sunday night and people bid farewell to the Winter Games, public passion for ice sports and the international sports event lingers, as some staff and volunteers who had spent about a month of intensive work at the Games are now working around the clock for the opening of the Paralympics. 

"Since the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Village also serves as the Paralympic Village, hotel room supplies used by Olympic athletes will be changed and prepared for Paralympics athletes," Zhao Yawei, who is in charge of communications at the Olympic Village, told the Global Times on Monday. 

As some athletes will leave the village on Tuesday, the transformation work of the village will start February 23 and has to be finished within 44 hours, and some Paralympic athletes will check in during the pre-opening of the village, which makes the preparation tasks more urgent, Zhao said, noting that the transformation work, for example, the landscape settings such as most-loved mascot Bing Dwen Dwen will be replaced by Paralympics mascot Shuey Rhon Rhon, a Chinese lantern child.

Some guiding and direction signs like the signs of passages for disabled people will be set up, she said. 

The overall level of barrier-free facilities and environment in Beijing meets the requirements of holding the Paralympics, Dong Lianmin, Vice Chairman of Beijing Disabled Persons' Federation, told at a press conference on Sunday. 

So far, Beijing has conducted multiple rounds of examination in 108 related venues and surrounding areas, 8 competition venues and two Olympic villages (Paralympic villages), which have all achieved full streamlined barrier-free arrangement, Dong said at the press conference, noting that the authorities paid attention to the design of the details. 

For example, the best spot of the stadium stands is reserved for wheelchair users, and locker rooms, toilets, and barrier-free rooms feature the sloping, rounded corners and low levels design. 

The standards for the arrangements for the Paralympics need to meet the requirements of the International Paralympic Committee, and the work of our volunteers and assisting the Para-athletes should also meet requirements, Wang Dazhao, a Beijing-based senior sports commentator, told the Global Times on Monday. 

In the past, China had relied on the government and civil affairs departments to manage the affairs of disabled people and improve their conditions including paying attention to sports activities for disabled people, with little engagement from the social institutions, Wang noted. 

"This situation has largely improved since 2008 when China held its first Paralympic Games, as the equipment such as blind pavement and barrier-free facilities. However, more efforts need to be done in changing people's mindset," Wang said, noting that holding the Paralympics could inspire more disabled people to be more courageous and be treated equally. 

With a vision of a "Joyful Rendezvous upon Pure Ice and Snow," the Paralympics, which will take place from March 4 to 13, will honor China's ancient traditions, pay homage to the legacy of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, and promote the values and vision of the Olympics and Paralympics, according to the International Olympic Committee. 

Training for volunteers of the Paralympics has already started. A volunteer surnamed Zhang from the Zhangjiakou competition zone told the Global Times on Monday that the event will uphold the same anti-epidemic measures while the volunteers have been asked to pay attention to their deeds and language in providing services. 

"For example, we are not encouraged to be too helpful, unless athletes ask for help," Zhang said.