Today: Last Update:

  • Paralympics Leaders Meet Chinese Premier


    The new officers and governing board of the IPC in Beijing last weekend. (IPC) 
    (ATR) Leaders of the International Paralympic Committee wrap up a week-long visit to China with a meeting Monday with Premier Wen Jiabao. IPC chief executive Xavier Gonzalez tells Around the Rings the meeting "is a great honor and shows the importance the Chinese give to the Paralympics."

    The meeting with the premier follows the IPC General Assembly in Beijing that ended Saturday with the election of a new Governing Board, the last step in a process of governance reform launched two years ago.

    Gonzalez says the new board is the first time delegates at the IPC assembly have been able to directly select their leaders. Under the previous system, Paralympic sports organizations and groups carried out the selection of members of the former ruling body, the executive board.

    Incumbent Phil Craven was elected to a new four-year term as president and Miguel Sagarra of Spain was elected vice president.

    Governing Board members chosen by the assembly include:
    Masoud Ashrafi, Iran; Jose Luis Campo, Argentina; Ann Cody, USA; Alan Dickson, Great Britain; Greg Hartung, Australia; Patrick Jarvis, Canada; Karl Vilhelm Nielsen, Denmark; Nabil Salem, Egypt; Zainal Abu Zarin, Malaysia; Zhifei Shen, China.

    Gonzalez notes that the Governing Board members chosen represent every part of the world, an outcome reached without the use of a quota system.

    This was the largest ever meeting for the IPC, with 300 delegates from about 90 countries, five regions and four sports organizations, says Gonzalez.

    He terms "excellent" the organization of the meeting by the China Disabled Persons' Federation, which oversees Paralympic sports in the country. Deng Pufang, chairman of the federation, was one of four people presented with the Paralympic Order at the Beijing meeting. It's the highest honor bestowed by the IPC.

    Gonzalez says this IPC general assembly included for the first time ever reports from four upcoming Paralympics, from Turin through London, with organizers from all four on hand to brief the delegates.

    He says despite concerns for the budget crunch being faced by Turin organizers, the IPC has no doubts for the Winter Paralympics in March.

    "We are confident that everything is moving
    IPC's Xavier Gonzalez (l), with TOROC CEO Cesare Vaciago. Gonzalez says the IPC is not worried about the staging of the Turin Winter Paralympics. 
    ahead," says Gonzalez, who says the sledge hockey test event two weeks ago in Turin was a good example of the preparation for the Paralympics.

    "Positive organization, integrated with the overall operations of TOROC and great participation from spectators," helped to make the event a success.

    He says TOROC CEO Cesare Vaciago delivered assurances that funding from city, regional and national governments would be adequate for the Games, although still undecided is the location of closing ceremony.

    For the future of the IOC, Gonzalez says finance is one of the challenges facing the organization. Last week brought a new sponsor to the IPC, the Otto Bock Company. He also notes the support of Visa, the first and only worldwide Olympic sponsor to do the same for the Paralympics.

    The next IPC General Assembly is in 2007, place to be decided. Gonzalez says bids from several locations are being considered and a decision will come in the next six months.

    Due to a holiday in the U.S. this week, there will be no weekly issue for Around the Rings on Nov. 25. The weekly returns on Dec. 2.