China appears to be on track towards their goal of merging Special Olympic and Paralympic sport by 2017.
Shaanxi recently completed its sixth province disability sport competition, which included both Paralympic and Special Olympic events on its program. The merger was done with the goal of maximizing the number of people with disabilities who can participate in the event on a recreational and competitive level. They have been encouraged by the local government to repeat this merged event next year.
Shaanxi ‘s merged provincial competition follows a pattern already set by fifteen other provinces including Tianjin, Liaoning, Shandong, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, and Sichuan. This practice began following China’s hosting of the 2008 Summer Paralympics and the government policy started around 2007 of the Inclusive Society Approach. Leadership believes that merging the events results in reduced operational costs and better facility utilization. At the same time, when sporting facilities are upgraded, it means that people in charge of construction can turn to one organization to advice on making facilities accessible to people with disabilities.
A 2011 paper titled, “Development of Special Olympics in China:Competition, Inclusion, Research, and Future” by Shihui Chen, Chunxiao Li and Yandan Wu estimates China has 24 million people with physical disabilities, 20 million deaf people, 13 million people with intellectual disabilities, 12 million people with vision impairments, 1.2 million people with speech impediments, and 13 million people with multiple disabilities. The first edition of the Chinese Special Olympics National Games was held in 1987, with 304 athletes from 14 cities competing in : athletics, table tennis and soccer. In 1998, management of Special Olympics was handed over to China Disabled Persons’ Federation from China’s Social Welfare Department.By 2010, the national competition had over 2,000 competitors competing in athletics, swimming, weightlifting, badminton, table tennis, bowling, roller skating, basketball, soccer, bocce, and judo.