First Para-South American Games ever begin in Santiago
Published On : Wed, Mar 26th, 2014
Chile claims a medal on the second day of continent’s inaugural paralympic games, though disabled groups say more needs to be done to level playfield.
South America’s first intercontinental paralympic games are set to be officially opened in the Chilean capital Wednesday night, but the host nation is already on the medal tally.
In the second day of events, which saw weightlifting, wheelchair basketball and boules, weightlifter María Antonieta Ortíz claimed a silver medal for Chile in the 73-kilogram division, an event which won by Amanda de Sousa of Brazil.
That medal puts Chile at third after the first round of medals were awarded in the weightlifting Wednesday, but the host nation will be looking to compete for top spot in the Santiago 2014 Para-Games with its 103-person strong squad — spearheaded by champion marathon runner Cristián Valenzuela — the largest of any of the eight nations. Gold medalist at the London 2013 Paralympics in the T-11 marathon, Valenzuela succesfully defended his world title in Lyon last July.
The games, to be inaugurated by President Michelle Bachelet and Sports Minister Natalia Riffo at Estadio Nacional Wednesday night, follow the South American Games held in Santiago earlier this month. Though with seven sports and eight participating countries the paralympic still has a way to go until it matches its 42-sports, 13-country counterpart.
Closing the gap
Alejandro Hernández, director of the National Disabled Foundation (FND), told The Santiago Times that Chile has a long way to go in providing infrastructure and opportunities for disabled, but qualified the 2014 Santiago Para-Games as a significant step forward.
“Every activity that brings attention to disability is positive,” he said.
Hernández added that the event provides the opportunity to move forward on other fronts, such as providing equal opportunities in the workforce and enhancing social security for disabled people.
“Chile should take this chance to realize structural changes, announce the implementation of effective public policies integrating kids, youngsters and adults with a disability. Our country counts three million disabled people who live, day in day out, in a profound context of exclusion and abandonment,” he said, adding that facilities and access still leave much to be desired.
Finally, Hernandez said he hopes that the games can help change attitudes towards disabled people.
“While in other parts of the world people with disabilities are respected, in Chile they are still seen as charity cases,” he said.
Tickets to the Para-South American Games are freely available online but, according to organizers, running out fast.
By Belinda Torres-Leclercq
Copyright 2014 – The Santiago Times