I think the movement of Special Olympics has been a great success (in China). We have grown all over the country. ”
chairman of Special
“We weren’t planning all this for funding,” said Qian, a junior. “We’ll be doing it regardless of what happens.”
Unification has become part of her life, as her school joined China’s emerging network of Special Olympics Unified Schools more than a year ago. Working together with the differently abled, they’ve held festive galas, sports meetings, charity events and many other activities.
That experience brought Qian to this year’s Special Olympics, where some 20 of her schoolmates translated their unified experiences into volunteer work.
More and more schools and universities are signing up for unified school initiatives in the country. According to Special Olympics’ East Asia committee, more than 50 schools and universities in China could enter the project by 2017. The project was launched globally in 2008 and has 1,700 participating schools and universities.
“I’ve seen very obvious improvement from my students after such activities,” said Qi Peipei, a teacher from Beijing Haidian Special Education School. “They’re much more willing to open up and would happily introduce themselves to things unknown.”
Qi added: “While performing on stage together, you often cannot tell their differences.”
Nakata Hidetoshi, the Japanese soccer star and Special Olympics global ambassador,
“You can judge how civilized a society really is by the level of disabled persons’ engagement in the society,” said Wang Meimei, deputy director of the China Disabled Person’s Federation and head of the China delegation at the 2015 Special Olympics.
In the past 30 years, China has advanced from just giving relief to those with special needs to creating a welcoming social environment, but there still is room for improvement, Wang said.
Volunteer work at the Los Angeles Games impressed Wang — participants were highly self-organized and proactive in their contributions to the games.
“Thanks to the government’s reach, (working with the program) we can bring Special Olympics to each city and town, even to each street,” said Mary Gu, regional president of Special Olympics East Asia. “Devotion from the Chinese government has been a benchmark for other countries.”
Gu added that communitylevel volunteer work needs to increase.
“I hope more people will take the Special Olympics idea to heart in the future and carry it around their life,” she said.
That would depend on the public’s recognition of the need.
“A society without the disabled’s participation is never a good society,” said Wang, from the China Disabled Persons’ Federation.
On the final week of the Los Angeles Games, Pan, the philanthropist, displayed overwhelming enthusiasm for the athletes. He cheered them on at every step. He tried to catch his breath during a spirited soccer match with them.
And he crammed his account on Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like online service, with pictures of him alongside the Chinese team on parade inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Pan’s honor, joy and pride in the athletes made it clear that, indeed, things have changed. Contact the writer at email@example.com
Chinese athletes contending at the track and field game during the 2015 Special Olympics Games.