London Paralympics to begin this week

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London Paralympics to begin this week

LONDON - The Paralympic Games begin in London on Wednesday, with China tipped to repeat their gold rush of four years ago but hosts Britain aiming to push them hard and give home fans more reasons to cheer.

Just over two weeks after the Olympics closing ceremony, organizers have transformed sports venues and accommodation in readiness for the arrival of some 4,200 athletes with a disability and the 11-day finale to a summer of sport.

The Games’ showpiece athletics program gets under way on Friday, with the highlight Oscar Pistorius, who is seeking to defend his T44 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter titles from Beijing.

Pistorius, dubbed the “Blade Runner” because he runs on carbon fibre blades, made history earlier this month by becoming the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympics, when he ran in the 400-meter heats and 4x400m relay final.

China has been tipped to be the team to beat, after its Paralympic team swept all aside in Beijing four years ago, with 89 golds and 211 medals in all, more than double that of its nearest rival Britain on both counts.

A number of countries are also set to send athletes for the first time, including North Korea, although critics say poorer nations are at a disadvantage in the Paralympics to those that can afford increasingly high-tech gear.

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