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24 November 2021, 10:49

Host city confident of a barrier-free Winter Paralympics

BEIJING, 24 November (BelTA - China Daily). - With around 100 days to go before the opening of the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, a firm confidence has been laid that all participants will enjoy a barrier-free tournament in Beijing, which stems from the recent World Wheelchair Curling Championship.

From October 17 to 31, 92 athletes, coaches and officials from 12 countries and regions participated in the wheelchair curling worlds at Beijing's National Aquatics Center, while training and staying at the China Administration of Sport for Persons with Disabilities (CASPD).

The National Aquatics Center, known as the "Water Cube" during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where it hosted swimming and diving events, has been converted into the "Ice Cube" for Beijing 2022, and will play host to curling and skating events.

World Curling Federation president Kate Caithness called the National Aquatics Center the best curling venue she had ever experienced. "The changing rooms, ramps and other facilities have been designed with great ingenuity and consideration," she said.

Qi Zhiguang, deputy manager of venues and infrastructure, stressed that, according to the Accessibility Guidelines for Beijing 2022 Paralympics, upgrading work on the Ice Cube began in March 2018 and was completed in November 2020. This included installing new roads, parking areas, entrances and exits, elevators, ramps, toilets, dressing rooms, low service desks and voice prompt systems.

Like the National Stadium, the Ice Cube also offers the best seats for the disabled. In addition to special ramps for athletes and referees, the organizing committee has also built ramps for media stands to allow access for journalists with disabilities.

To understand the characteristics of injuries in wheelchair curling and form a special medical security scheme for athletes, the medical team studied injury samples from test events in April and fully analysed statistics from previous Winter Paralympics.

It came out with two seperate groups.

The in-venue medical group was composed of staff members from Beijing Tsinghua Changgeng hospital. A total of 39 medical and nursing personnel were available, some of whom had served during Beijing 2008.

Considering the particularities of wheelchair curling, the team employed members from various medical departments to help athletes with physical injuries, lower limb infections and urinary tract infections.

The out-venue group was organized by Beijing Red Cross Emergency Rescue Center, which had 19 people and three ambulances on 24-hour standby. The Third Hospital of Peking University and Beijing Chaoyang Hospital received the injured and wounded inside the bubble, while those outside the bubble had access to treatment at the 306th Hospital of PLA, which is nearest to the Ice Cube.

"They have done an extremely brilliant job and if this is what they are bringing to a Worlds, I'd like to see what they bring to the Paralympics to make it go ahead," said Scottish athlete Gregor Ewan of the accessibility services during the championship.

In the terms of catering, every batch of food for athletes was tested for COVID-19 and doping in the process of purchase, storage and retention. CASPD specially invited senior chefs to provide personalized meals for athletes at any time of day.

Jiuxianqiao Street Office director Xu Hongzhen revealed that, in addition to inviting experts for inspection, the construction team of CASPD also carried out various tests in wheelchairs themselves.

Considering the weather change in late October, CASPD arranged two batches of quilts and one electric radiator for each room. Staff also pasted English labels on Chinese-made washers and dryers to help overseas athletes understand instructions.

"They also installed air purifiers for those with allergies," Xu added.

Outside the athletes' apartment, 15 welcabs stood by to allow athletes and team members to commute from CASPD to the Ice Cube.

All the seats in the middle of the original carriage were removed, allowing the welcabs to carry six wheelchairs, while 12 seats were reserved for other team members.

The cabs' wheelchair area was equipped with backrests, safety belts and handrails, and eight ground anchors were set on the floor to fix the wheelchairs.

There were no steps at the rear door of the carriage, and additional pedals were equipped to connect to the original pedals to reduce the inclination when boarding and alighting.

"We're just amazed by how the buses coordinate to make it, so we make it on time. So we have all the confidence going into Paralympics," said Ina Forrest, vice captain of the Canadian wheelchair curling team.

"There are such a great support to us, so I expect that there will be the same support for next year again to help us get as ready as we can be and have a comfortable and successful competition here," she added.

Including the National Aquatics Center, the Paralympic Winter Games involves three competition venues and 20 non-competition venues in Beijing and Yanqing in total, and all barrier-free facilities have been completed, according to Ding Jianming, deputy director of Beijing Major Projects Office.

"Following the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games will further enhance the awareness of accessibility in society as a whole, improve the level of urban barrier-free facilities and benefit the construction of a barrier-free community. People from all walks of life are going to look forward to the future together," Ding said.

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