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September 21, 2004

Sign whispers translate Paralympic Games for deaf athletes

From: People's Daily Online, China - Sep 21, 2004

They have studied every possible wind, learnt where it comes from, how it feels, how strong it is, to be able to translate it into sign language for deaf people on the Athens Paralympic Games opening ceremony last Friday.

The Greek Theater of deaf and their translator Sofia Roboli were the first ever to translate the whole Olympic opening ceremony, thus enabling persons with impaired hearing to follow the meaning of the spectacle.

The 18-member staff was at first offered to stage a theater performance in the framework of the "Culture Olympiad", but after months of rehearsals, it was cancelled.

"We were devastated", the 36-year-old Chrystos Kostopoulos said.

But when Roboli was invited to translate the ceremony, she proposed that they join too.

They were also tired of translating the names of the participating countries and regions into sign language, and among others, of poetically interpreting the names of the winds during the choreographic part of the spectacle, based on ancient Greek philosophical perception of the five elements.

"We wanted to understand the character of the wind, to be able to transfer it in sign language in theatric style," said Roboli.

Used to performing in closed spaces, they had the feeling that their message of equality grew much stronger, sent from the full Olympic stadium. All year round, except for the December 3rd Day of Disabled, they feel marginalized.

"At least an important step was taken," Yiannis Diamantis said.

Recalling their school days and efforts to learn acting, his colleagues and friends agreed that "early things" were much worst, but that the improvement is not enough.

"There should be permanent translators in hospitals, schools, universities, courts, so that we can communicate without obstacles, " they noted.

The Theater of Deaf was founded in 1984, and has given many performances abroad until 1993, when their major sponsor, actress and Culture Minister Melina Mercuri died.

Since then, the Theater has no permanent means of income. But it is seeking sponsors.

Source: Xinhua

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