Guadalajara, Mexico – About 1,500 athletes with disabilities are getting ready to continue America’s Fiesta at the 2011 edition of the Parapan American Games, which will be held in the city from Nov. 12 to 20, two weeks after the closing ceremonies of the Pan American Games.

This event, which is also being called the Games of Inclusion, will feature the participation of athletes from 26 countries throughout the Americas. They will compete in 13 events at the facilities used during last month’s Pan American Games.

“The games are an opportunity to demonstrate 12 years of preparation as an athlete,” said León Felipe Coronado Gastélum, a 36-year-old Guadalajaran and member of the Mexican table tennis team that will compete at the event. “It’s a chance to share what I do with people, my family, my friends and my girlfriend. It’s the most important competition of my life, because I’m going to be in my country, in my city, with my people.”

The event, in which the top finishers earn berths at the Paralympics in London next year, represents a major effort by the authorities of a city in which less than1% of infrastructure is suited for the disabled, according to the Jalisco Ministry of Roads and Transport.

“There’s mobility and logistics plans for the games,” Minister of Roads and Transport Diego Monraz Villaseñor said in a media conference.

The 12 sports facilities and the Pan American Village that will house some of the athletes have been approved by the International Paralympic Committee.

“I see them as being the best in the Americas,” committee member Emilio Pozzi said last month.

Half of the participants will stay at the Pan American Village, with the rest residing in hotels throughout the city that have been renovated with handicapped-accessible rooms, bathrooms and elevators.

In preparation for the Games of Inclusion, during the final days of October, the System for Integral Family Development (DIF) – the institution responsible for assisting those participating in the games – held the Second Metropolitan Congress for Tourist Accessibility in Guadalajara to raise awareness among tourism operators about the adaptation of their facilities.

“We want to raise awareness for an inclusive Guadalajara that serves the needs of all of the people who live here and come to visit,” Germán Figueroa, the city’s tourism director, told reporters.

Officials for the Parapan American Games said their competition for disabled athletes will be just as spectacular as last month’s Pan American Games, which began with an opening ceremony at Omni Life Stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico.”]Athletic competitions for the disabled emerged after World War I, but the Americas have relatively little experience organizing the Parapan American Games. They began in Mexico City, in 1999, and since then have been held in Mar del Plata Argentina (2003), and Rio de Janeiro Brazil (2007).

In 2011, the Organizing Committee of the Pan American Games in Guadalajara intends to give equal importance to the 2011 Games of Inclusion.

“The opening ceremony is being carried out by the same company, with the same level of quality, albeit in a smaller space at the brand new track and field stadium,” said Aimée Poyo Borrego, the chief of operations for the 2011 Parapan American Games.

Among the benefits the Parapan American Games will bring to the city is the introduction of new adapted sports spaces. Currently, Mexico has one such space: the Paralympic Center in Mexico City.

“These competitions are calling attention to the issue of accessibility and inclusion,” Poyo Borrego said. “In Guadalajara, many of the adaptations to the stadiums for people with disabilities will be permanent.”

To kick things off, authorities from Guadalajara and surrounding cities are preparing the course for the Parapan American torch, which, on Nov. 11-12, will be carried by 59 relay participants, each covering 400 meters.

Athletes competing in the Games of Inclusion hope to draw the same audience as the Pan American Games.

“The Parapan American Games are as important as the Pan American Games,” Coronado Gastelum said. “The only difference is that the athletes have disabilities.”

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