Beijing - The Olympic atmosphere is suddenly back in Beijing: "Two Games with equal splendour" have been promised by the organizers when the 13th Paralympics begin on Saturday evening with what promises to be another spectacular opening ceremony in the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium.
Details of the elaborate ceremony, to last almost three hours, are a closely guarded secret, but much is already known, with the 91,000 spectators set to be taken on a journey through space and time.
China is putting as much effort into the largest-ever Paralympics as it did for the summer Games for which it earned so much praise.
Car driving restrictions remain in force while factories and power stations are operating at reduced production levels. The more than 4,000 athletes and 17 million residents will continue to experience cleaner air and faster flowing traffic.
As at the summer Games where the hosts overtook the United States on gold medals won, China will again be seeking to top the medals table with its biggest team yet, consisting of 332 athletes.
Yet China is not just interested in a large medals haul but wants to show it is a hospitable and open host as it endeavoured to do at the summer Games.
China wants to enhance exchanges with foreign athletes to help better deal with the needs of disabled people.
"Service for disabled people in China lags behind despite rapid progress in recent years. The Paralympics give us a chance to learn foreign expertise," team chief Wang Xinxian was quoted as saying by state media.
He hopes for a lasting legacy from the first Paralympics in China, a country which has some 83 million disabled people.
"Hopefully people would care more about disabled people, provide them with more opportunities for medical treatment, education, employment and safeguard their lawful rights," said Wang, who is also the deputy chairman of the Chinese organization for disabled people.
The capital has prepared further for the Games by ordering a fleet of 70 taxis for the disabled from England and by installing ramps and lifts for wheelchair users.
The city has invested 67 million yuan (6.7 million euros) to make 60 tourist attractions more accessible. The most well known Peking duck restaurant Quanjude has even introduced menus in Braille.
Sir Philip Craven, chairman of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), has praised the hosts.
"The level of accessibility is absolutely fantastic, and it's a first class job," he said.
More has to be done for society in general and the media to increase awareness over disability and to remove prejudices, he said. In a still-developing country like China, many people had never heard of the Paralympics or seen how disabled people were able to compete at the highest levels.
"We all expect that this Games will open a new chapter in the history and progression of the Paralympic movement," Craven said.
There was, he added, no doubt that Beijing was already seeing the "equal splendour" promised by the hosts. (dpa)