Spotlight shifts to Paralympics as Olympic draws to its close

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Beijing, Aug 22 (UNI) With just two more days left for the closing ceremony of the Olympics, Beijing is all set to host the next big event here - the Paralympic Games - which kicks off on September 6, tourism spokeswoman said.

''The city's tourism bureau has spent 2 million yuan (290,000 dollars) on upgrading its facilities for people with physical and visual disabilities,'' deputy director of the Beijing tourism administration Xiong Yumei told a press conference yesterday.

All hotels ranked three-star and above will provide special barrier-free parking spaces, toilets and rooms, she added.

The city's 16 contracted hotels for the Paralympics will provide a total of 174 barrier-free rooms, while authorities have also spent 67 million yuan to provide barrier-free access and other services for wheelchair users at 60 tourist attractions in the city, including the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace.

Manager of the Temple of Heaven Yang Xiaodong said, ''60 ramps have been built within the temple complex to make it easier for people in wheelchairs to get around. These will not, however, affect the venue's World Heritage status.'' Some workers at the temple have also been taught sign language, he said.

''All of the Paralympic athletes and officials will be able to enjoy China's best kept and largest group of constructions for holding memorial ceremonies to heaven, with no obstacles,'' he said.

Meanwhile, despite the Paralympics being just around the corner, prices at some of Beijing's best hotels have been on the slide, according to one travel website.

Standard rooms at one five-star hotel for next Wednesday, for example, are being offered at just 600 yuan, compared with a rate of 3,000 yuan for tomorrow, Ctrip.com.

''But this price plunge was inevitable, as a lot of new hotels opened before the Olympics and the city's total number of rooms grew by 9,800,'' the website's Wu Jiaoli said yesterday.

''After Sunday's closing ceremony for the Games, a lot of athletes, officials, reporters and spectators will leave.

''But this will create an attractive environment for post-Olympic tourism in Beijing,'' she said.

The average price today for a room at a five-star hotel is between 3,000 and 8,000 yuan, while prices at four-star hotels range from 1,000 to 3,000 yuan, both at least double what they were last August, she said.

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