Paralympic head praises equestrian facilities

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 October, 2007, 12:00am

The head of the International Paralympic Committee is happy with the equestrian facilities in Sha Tin where the Paralympic events will be held next September.

Sir Philip Craven, president of the committee, praised the grounds as compact and disabled-friendly following his visit yesterday.

'I am not a technical expert, but I can see that the facilities are logically laid out and very compact. It's a great choice, I think,' Sir Philip said.

The president is on a two-day visit to Hong Kong, during which he was also expected to tour the Paralympic Village in Royal Park Hotel in Sha Tin and the Shangri-La Hotel in Kowloon, where athletes' family members will stay.

At the end of the tour, he was to have a meeting with the Hong Kong organiser on the city's preparation work for the events, which are to be held from September 7 to 11.

So far, local rider Nelson Yip Siu-hong is the city's only athlete to qualify for the events, yet Sir Philip said he expected to see another couple of riders representing the city.

'Although equestrian is not a sport as popular as football or ping-pong in Hong Kong, I predict that the events next year will significantly raise the popularity of the sport in the city.'

The president, 58, who was paralysed at the age of 16 after a rock climbing fall, represented Britain in wheelchair basketball matches in various international games from 1969 to 1988.

'I never say I am disabled. I am just a wheelchair user,' he said. 'I can move faster than many people with legs.'

Sir Philip said sport had provided an excellent opportunity for disabled people to be what they were.

'The Paralympics are for everybody. Wherever it is held, it will give an incredible boost to public awareness of the disabled people.'

Asked if he had got a sense of the Olympic atmosphere after arriving in the city, Sir Philip said he was pleased to see billboards with equestrian event advertisements in several places.

'Of course, I am eager to discover more about Hongkongers' enthusiasm on the events in the next 24 hours,' he said.