Thursday marked the one-year countdown to the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, with the occasion celebrated by a number of events in China.
In attendance were the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip CRAVEN, IPC Governing Board Members Greg HARTUNG and Shen ZHIFEI as well as IPC Chief Executive Officer Xavier GONZALEZ and other IPC staff members.
During a ceremony held at the China Millennium Monument, the Beijing 2008 Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (BOCOG) and IPC formally conveyed invitations to National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) to attend next years' Games. Representatives from more than 90 National Paralympic Committees are currently meeting in Beijing for the Chef de Mission Seminar.
Said CRAVEN, 'I am truly honoured to be here today to represent Paralympic athletes and fans of the Paralympic Movement around the world and mark the beginning of this great countdown. From this point on, the excitement will mount every single day. Activities and preparations related to the Paralympic Games are in full swing gearing up towards a successful experience in September 2008.'
BOCOG also officially launched the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Torch Relay, which for the first time will include an international itinerary. The Torch will start its journey on 28 August 2008 under the slogan 'Light the Passion, Share the Dream' in Beijing. The relay will travel in three routes simultaneously to several cities in China and abroad. Future Paralympic Games host cities (London, Vancouver and Sochi) have been invited to participate in the relay. The three flames will merge in Beijing on 6 September 2008 before heading to the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.
The ceremony was attended by various Chinese Government officials, including Jia QINGLIN, President of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, as well as BOCOG President Liu QI, President of China Disabled Persons' Federation Deng PUFANG, Beijing Vice Mayor Liu JINGMIN and other BOCOG Executive leaders.
The celebrations will be followed by the first Paralympic specific test event of Goalball next week.