Beijing Winter Paralympic Games reflect more than just sports
Zhang Haidi

Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for influential leaders to share their insights on events shaping today's world. Zhang Haidi is chairwoman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation and head of the Beijing Winter Paralympics Chinese delegation. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.

I still remember the day when Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, announced in Kuala Lumpur, that Beijing had won the bid to host the 24th Olympic Winter Games in 2022. My colleagues in the Games Bid Delegation and I were so happy that we all shed tears.

As a member of the Bid Delegation, I made a presentation on the Paralympic Winter Games, sharing the positive impact of sports on persons with disabilities, especially the important role of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games in promoting the development of the work on disability in China. Now I'm ready to see fireworks lighting up the night sky during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

Since 2016, the Chinese Paralympic sports delegation has participated in many international winter sports events and won several gold medals. At the Pyeongchang Paralympic Winter Games, the wheelchair curling team won a gold medal, marking the first-ever gold medal, also the first-ever medal, in the history of China's participation in the Paralympic Winter Games.

We encourage people with disabilities to participate in ice and snow sports. The China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF) has organized five "Ice and Snow Sports Season for Persons with Disabilities." The past few years have witnessed the continuous progress of China's winter parasports. The number of athletes used to be smaller than 50, but now it has grown to over 1,000. The number of events that China participates in has also increased from two to six, covering all major events of the Winter Games.

Over the past six years, we have been supporting the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in the Games preparation work. We have also set up a winter Paralympic team composed of excellent athletes selected by the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF) at all levels. The team takes continuous training throughout the year and participates in international winter sports events. We have built a competitive team in a short period of time. Our athletes keep training in spite of hardships and fatigue.

Hailing Yan of Team China trains for the Men's Downhill Sitting ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics at National Alpine Ski Centre in Yanqing District, Beijing, China, March 1, 2022. /VCG

Hailing Yan of Team China trains for the Men's Downhill Sitting ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics at National Alpine Ski Centre in Yanqing District, Beijing, China, March 1, 2022. /VCG

To embrace the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, we have also built the National Ice Sports Arena for People with Disabilities and many other new accessibility facilities.

The 2022 Winter Games will draw more attention of the whole society to persons with disabilities, promote the development of the work on disability, improve the overall level of parasports, and encourage more and more people with disabilities to engage in sports. In this way, they will be more fit, get better rehabilitation and be more fully included in society.

This Winter Games will also drive more people with disabilities to join in winter sports, love life, and gain courage. We hope that the whole society pays more respect and attention to people with disabilities and creates a friendlier environment.

It's also worth mentioning that the views of the general public on persons with disabilities have changed over the years.

The United Nations proclaimed 1981 as the International Year of the Disabled. This raised awareness of disability in the whole society. The China Post Office even issued a special stamp themed on this Year. When I came to Beijing in 1984 to attend the founding ceremony of the China Welfare Foundation for Disabled Persons, all sorts of feelings welled up when I saw "can ji ren." Before then, persons with disabilities had been called "can fei ren," literally meaning "disabled and useless people." This small change reflected the renewed attitudes and respect for people with disabilities.

Now, there are more than one billion people with disabilities worldwide. They need our support. Disability is the suffering not only of an individual, but of all humanity. And we have to face it all together. Improving the well-being of persons with disabilities is the responsibility and direction of efforts shared by all countries in the world.

China is among the earliest countries that called for developing a UN convention to safeguard the rights and interests of persons with disabilities, and was among the first groups of countries to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

China also made active efforts in promoting the inclusion of disability issues into the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The CDPF has carried out productive cooperation with UN agencies including the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, World Health Organization, UN Women, United Nations Population Fund and UNESCO. In 2019, María Fernanda Espinosa, president of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, and Muhammad-Bande, president-elect of the 74th session successively paid visits to the CDPF and spoke highly of the work on disability in China.

As people say that the Paralympic Games gives its competitors courage and is one of the great opportunities for them to become more active in society, the Paralympic Games play an important role in protecting the rights and interests of people with disabilities, improving their living conditions and raising social awareness.

China successfully hosted the 2008 Paralympic Games, and now we are going to host the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. The full participation of persons with disabilities in sports is an important means to realize their rights to subsistence and development in an all-round way, and also presents more possibilities in their equal participation in social life.

Life has wholeness and beauty, and also imperfection and misfortune. Facing disabilities caused by heredity, diseases and accidents, many people have overcome pain and difficulties and braved new paths of life. The pursuit of sporting excellence embodies people's perseverance. Athletes with disabilities show with their strong will that no obstacle could not be overcome, and it is determination that counts.

Promoting sports of persons with disabilities has become an integral part of the work on disability in China. Hosting the Paralympic Winter Games is expected to create more opportunities for persons with disabilities and enable them to realize their dreams.

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