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Special Olympics Makes Big Impression

The Shanghai Special Olympics World Summer Games has elicited a string of superlatives - grandest opening, most delegations, widest media coverage and greatest impact, senior officials at the event said yesterday.

During a press conference in Shanghai, officials of the International Organization for the Special Olympics used words such as superb, spectacular, fantastic, best and grandest to describe the event's opening ceremony. It is estimated that some 70,000 spectators and people watching the event on TV saw the ceremony.

A combination of technology, athletic skill and culture made for a ceremony that observers said was on par with anything they had seen for the regular Olympics.

They lauded the government's effort to hold a large-scale sporting event for intellectually disabled athletes.

"The government fully supports the work of the Special Olympics in China," Dicken Yung, president of Special Olympics East Asia, said.

President Hu Jintao officiated the opening last Tuesday.

"The government has for the last five years spent more than US$10 million a year promoting the Special Olympics in different provinces and cities, and that's a very conservative figure," said Yung.

Businesses, local governments and individual families also lent their support to the Special Olympics.

Lee Todd, Special Olympics' chief of world games and competition, called the Shanghai games a "logistics miracle".

Todd said he was "scared" by the size of Shanghai, with its population of more than 18 million, and was worried that Asia's first Special Olympics could face some challenges.

"We have never been in a city even one-tenth the size (of Shanghai)," he said.

But from the welcome center at the airport to the actual competitions, the chief said, he was impressed with the efficiency of the organizing committee and the "top-notch" services available.

"My fear was totally eliminated," he said, adding that he was amazed to see more than 10,000 athletes and coaches from 164 nations and regions entering and leaving the Shanghai stadium at a brisk pace during the opening ceremony.

(China Daily October 8, 2007)

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