The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games were record breaking in more ways than one.
More athletes and countries competed than ever before and the Games were seen by the most people ever either as spectators in venues or viewers on television or the internet.
With the addition of rowing to the sport programme for the first time, a total of 20 sports took place in China. All but sailing and equestrian events were held in Beijing.
Archery IPC Athletics Boccia Cycling Equestrian Football 5-a-side Football 7-a-side Goalball Judo IPC Powerlifting Rowing Sailing IPC Shooting IPC Swimming Table tennis Sitting volleyball Wheelchair basketball Wheelchair fencing Wheelchair rugby Wheelchair tennis
The 10 day long Paralympic Torch Relay involved 850 torch bearers in the two-route run. The “Ancient China” route covered the historic cities of Xi’an, Hohhot, Changsha, Nanjing and Luoyang. The “Modern China” route took in Shenzhen, Wuhan, Shanghai, Qingdao and Dalian.
The Paralympic Torch Relay Launch Ceremony took place at the Temple of Heaven and was attended by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
The 90,000 seat Bird’s Nest Stadium staged the spectacular Opening Ceremony which involved the contributions of 4,813 performers.
Three times Paralympic champion in the men’s high jump and Paralympian Ambassador Hou Bin lit the Paralympic torch in sensational style climbing a rope to the roof of the Bird’s Nest using nothing but the strength in his arms.
The Games were officially opened by Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China.
In a repeat of the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, China and Great Britain held the top two positions in the medals table. The host nation took home 89 golds, whilst Great Britain, who will stage the next Paralympic Games in 2012, took home 42 gold medals.
In the Birds Nest stadium, Canada’s T54 wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc was unbeatable taking five gold medals in all distances from 100m through to 1,500m.
South African Oscar Pistorius claimed three golds in the 100m, 200m and 400m T44 races, setting a new world record of 47.49 seconds in the 400m. Ireland’s Jason Smyth was equally impressive setting new world records on his way to gold in the 100m and 200m T13 races.
Brazil’s Daniel Dias was the man to beat in ‘Water Cube’ taking home a total of nine swimming medals consisting of four golds, four silvers and one bronze. South Africa’s Natalie du Toit was equally as impressive winning five gold medals out five swimming events. At the closing ceremony du Toit was awarded the Whand Youn Dai Achievement Award, in recognition of her exemplary role in practicing the Paralympic motto “Spirit in Motion”.
Dutch wheelchair tennis player Ester Vergeer collected her third consecutive Paralympic Games gold medal with victory in the women’s singles, whist Polish table tennis player Natalie Partyka competed in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, taking gold in the women’s individual TT10 final in the latter event.
Australia’s 19 year old rugby player Ryley Batt scored a record 23 points as his country took home silver.
ATTENDANCE AND COVERAGE
The Games saw 1.82 million tickets sold and a further 1.62 million tickets provided to children, education and community groups. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were sold out, as were all swimming events and most athletics sessions.
With 64 rights holders covering 80 countries from all five continents, the Beijing Games had more TV coverage than ever before. A cumulated audience of 3.8 billion watched the Games and the total broadcasting time increased by 200 per cent compared to the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
China’s CCTV and BTV broadcast 22 hours of coverage daily on different channels.
The Games were also broadcast on the IPC’s online TV channel www.ParalympicSport.TV as well as on www.youtube.com/ParalympicSportTV, a new channel launched prior to Beijing. This gave those without access to TV coverage the opportunity to watch the event on their computer screen.
The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games came to close on 17 September. Taking the theme ‘A Letter to the Future’ the Ceremony featured about 2,000 performers.
London, the host of the 2012 Paralympic Games, staged an eight minute performance and aimed to show how sport can promote the Paralympic Movement and positively influence young people’s lives.