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China to Train 1 Mln Intellectually Disabled Athletes

China on Tuesday pledged to train up to one million athletes with intellectual disabilities by the year 2010.

Wang Zhijun, chairman of Special Olympics China, said the country will continue to increase financial input in the cause of the disabled people, and take the opportunities of the on-going Shanghai Special Olympics to speed up the efforts and help the mentally challenged people integrate with the society.

China has nearly 83 million disabled people and among them about 9.8 million are intellectually disabled. The number of Chinese intellectually disabled athletes has grown to 650,000, thanks to strong government support in the past few years.

Wang said the Chinese government has all along attached great importance to the development of the cause of the disabled, as shown in the arrangement for the Shanghai Special Olympics.

Shanghai's Minghang District, a venue for part of the Special Olympics sports and events, has invested 20 million yuan in the Games, according to Wang.

Besides, China plans to build special schools for the intellectually disabled in 400 counties with population of over 300, 000 each.

The Shanghai Special Olympics brings together some 10,000 athletes and trainers from more than 160 countries and regions. It is the first time for the Games to be held in China, and in a developing country.

Wang said China will summarize the experience of the Games and carry on its spirit in more local communities, making full play of the model communities such as the "Sunshine Houses", special healthcare and training centers established for mentally disabled people.

Since its founding in 1968, the Special Olympics has become a comprehensive, large-scale sports event for the intellectually disabled from the whole world. China has sent athletes to all the previous Special Olympics summer and winter games since 1987.

President Hu Jintao has said the Special Olympics encourages the intellectually disabled to challenge themselves and realize the value of their lives, and help them to share with others the achievements of human civilization.

Hu told Chairman of Special Olympics International Timothy Shriver earlier that his country will continue to give care and support to the disabled, adding the Shanghai Summer Games will greatly promote the development of China's Special Olympics movement, and contribute to the development of the international Special Olympics cause.

The Chinese team has got a total of 242 gold medals by Tuesday at the on-going Shanghai Special Olympics, as well as 161 silvers and 113 bronzes.

According to Zhao Sujing, spokesperson of the Chinese delegation, more than 1,700 Chinese athletes with intellectual disabilities participated in all of the 21 competitive sports and four demonstration sports.

Zhao said he found that the athletes, ranging from the age of eight to 58, "not only felt happy during participation at the Games but also accumulated self-confidence through it."

(Xinhua News Agency October 10, 2007)

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