Deaflympics opens in Taiwan with drums and a firework display

Saturday, September 5, 2009

TAIPEI - A spectacular fireworks display and the beating of drums by 80 deaf students heralded the opening of the 21st Summer Deaflympics here Saturday evening.

President Ma Ying-jeou, through sign language, announced the opening of the 10-day games, being attended by nearly 3,000 athletes from 80 countries and regions.

They will compete in some 100 events in 20 sports.

The Chinese team boycotted the opening because of Ma’s presence, as China sees Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) as its breakaway province and does not recognize Ma as president.

The Chinese team, with nearly 100 athletes, booked a late-night flight so that they would arrive after the completion of the opening ceremony.

This is the second large-scale multi-national sports event held in Taiwan this year, after the World Games held in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, in July.

Taiwan has vowed to hold a successful Deaflympics to raise its international profile as the internationally-isolated island has not had many chances to hold large-scale international events, due to a Chinese blockade.

Deaflympics, previously called World Games for the Deaf, is sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee and held under the auspices of the CISS, the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.

The games, launched in Paris in 1924, are held every four years.

To qualify for the games, athletes must have a hearing loss of at least 55 decibels in their “better ear”. Hearing aids, cochlear implants and the like are banned in competition, to place all athletes on the same level.

The Taipei City Government has recruited some 10,000 volunteers to work at competition venues and to assist the athletes. The volunteers spent months learning international sign language to be able to communicate with the athletes who normally use their own countries’ sign language.

Filed under: Sports

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