Paralympians weigh Chicago as 2016 host

August 9, 2009 (CHICAGO) **NOTE** Open captioning was not available during Karen's report due to a technical difficulty. We expect open captioning to resume with her next report. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your understanding. The complete text of Karen's report can be found below.

Former and current Chicago are Paralympic medalists feel Chicago has the most to offer for both athletes with and without disabilities.

The Paralympic Games have over 4,000 athletes with disabilities from 145 countries participating in 20 sports. Chicago's 2016 Paralympic Game plans are being designed with the athletes in mind and a strong commitment to accessibility.

"Chicago topographically is great because its relatively flat, but additionally, we have the Curb Cut Initiative. So, the curbs are cut. Our mass transit the buses are fully accessible. We [are] increasing the number of accessible cabs," said Linda Mastandrea, a member of Chicago's 2016 team and Director of Paralympics Sports.

Mastandrea also is a Paralympican medalist in track.

"I participated in 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta; I retired before Sydney," she said.

Mastandrea says Chicago has learned a lot from the other cities.

"Barcelona, I think, was fantastic because they were so friendly and open and welcoming, and the city was very active and engaged and really interested in having the Paralympic Games," she said.

"I think Atlanta, for me, was unique because it was here in the United States, and the venues there were fabulous, and the athletes were able to turn in good competitions," said Mastandrea.

"Sydney did a great job of bringing in the public and really engaging everyone in the Paralympic experience," Mastandrea said. "I really haven't heard a lot about Athens. So, I can't speak to the Athens Games."

"Beijing, I think, they also did an awfully good job in turning out the public," Mastandrea said.

Current Paralympians Paul Moran and Hope Lewellen have represented the USA on both the wheelchair tennis and sitting volleyball teams.

Moran has participated in the last five Paralympics.

"What's the most accessible one? Sydney seemed to do a really good job with accessibility. Beijing was really accessible, as well," he said.

"One of the drawbacks of the Atlanta Paralympics village was, it was on a steep hill. Too, they had to have little trolley towing people up the hill. This city is very easy to get around on a wheelchair," said Moran.

Hope Lewellen has won a silver medal in wheelchair tennis and a bronze and silver in sitting volleyball.

"I know we are quite accessible, and that's one of the great things about our country and Chicago particular, we have a great group of people who are top of that," she said.

"I've had friends come here who live on locean cities who always think, 'Oh you're in the middle of a county, and it's like you're by an ocean.' It's great, and they can't believe how much they love it here. So, I know Chicago would do us proud, if we hosted," Lewellen said.

"Mayor Daley is tremendously committed to the idea of Chicago becoming the most accessible city in the United States, and in order to host a great Paralympic Games, you have to have accessibility for athletes, for the spectators, for you visitors, for you media, for the delegations, in general," said Mastandrea.

October 2 is the day the host city will be announced.

Hope Lewellen and Paul Moran say they are looking forward to participating in the 2012 games in London.

Linda Mastandrea has been retired since 2000. When asked if she would come out of retirement if she Chicago won the 2016 Olympic bid, she laughed.

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