Bt Paralympic Inside
Transcript of Bt Paralympic Inside
* * *
* * * * * *
* * *
SEPTEMBER 7 2008 |II | The Sunday Telegraph
SPORT PARALYMPICSFor all the latest news go to www.telegraph.co.uk/sport
GARETH A DAVIES
COMPETITION at the XIII Paralympic Games, in Beijing, began in the early hours of this morning. Over 11 days, 4,000 athletes from 150 nations will compete to win 472 gold medals.
Since 1988, the Paralympic Games have been held in the same venues shortly after the Olympics, with an agreement signed in Sydney, in 2000, that the organising committees for both Games in each host city would be legally contracted.
Hu Jintao, president of China, has vowed to “deliver a high-standard Paralympic Games with distinctive features”, with China’s motto being “Two Games, Equal Splendour”.
Every nation competing in Beijing knows already that the hosts will head the final medals table at the end of competition on Sept 17. The Middle Kingdom’s team is huge, highly prepared and very well funded.
This year’s host nation dominated the Games for the first time in Athens, four years ago, with a final haul of 63 gold medals, after having been one of the Paralympic minnows in the past.
The Paralympic Games represent much more than simply an elite sporting event; they are part of a worldwide movement for heightening awareness that the word ‘disability’ is a misnomer. Independence and strength, and the power of the human spirit, will be demonstrated over and over again during these Games, by visually impaired, wheelchair, amputee, cerebral palsy and Les Autres (dwarfs, multiple sclerosis) athletes. Never will the Games have had a greater impact because an estimated 83 million disabled citizens live in the host nation.
World ready to witness triumphs of human spirit
If you have a taste for gold, stand by
THE Beijing Olympic Games are over. Our teams have returned – Team GB with a glut of medals, the London 2012 team armed with a stack of details, anecdotes and lessons to inform our planning for the world’s biggest sporting event.
Time to draw breath? Not a bit – the world’s second biggest sporting event, the Paralympic Games, open today and once again our teams will be there observing and learning.
For us, the Paralympic Games are an integral part of London 2012. When we went to Singapore, we didn’t just bid for the Olympic Games, we also bid for the Paralympic Games. Warm words you might say, but you had your eyes on the main prize, right? Absolutely not. The Paralympic Games are part of our history.
Created at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire, in 1948, the Paralympic Games are coming home in 2012 and are intrinsically part of our existence: those who work planning for the Olympic Games also work on planning the Paralympic Games. We are the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games.
I went to my first Paralympic Games in 2004 in Athens. I admit I went with some pre-conceptions about what I might see and concerns that it was ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’. I was blown away – as were the pre-conceptions. So-called ‘able-bodied’ people could not hope to reach anywhere near the athletic standards I saw, making a mockery of
that phrase. The athletes I saw in 2004 and those who are competing this summer and in four years in London almost demand a re-definition of the word ‘disability’.
Using the power of the Games to inspire change is one of the key pillars upon which our bid for 2012 was based and this is no more evident than with the Paralympic Games. You look at Seoul in 1988 where a whole nation’s attitude to disability was transformed and see what is possible.
It is no coincidence that London 2012 launches its education programme to coincide with the handover of the Paralympic flag to London. Being able to show young people the achievements of these extraordinary athletes is more than a valuable lesson – it’s potentially life changing.
So on the afternoon of Sept 17, at the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games, the Paralympic flag will be passed to Boris Johnson in the National Stadium in Beijing. With it will be passed a unique opportunity for London and the entire nation to embrace the Paralympic movement.
Oh, and did I mention that the ParalympicsGB team are very good? The achievements of Team GB during the Olympic Games have been well documented and the plaudits well deserved, but if you have a taste for gold then stay tuned.
More than 300 Chinese athletes, the country’s largest contingent in Games history, will compete in all 20 sports, arguably without the same level of expectation that their Olympic countrymen and women had faced from government officials and the public.
The team has prepared at the China Disability Sports Training Centre in Beijing, the world’s largest sports training site for people with a disability. It covers a total of 238,235 sq metres, and includes a multi-sports training gymnasium, goalball hall, swimming pool, cycling track, two outdoor football fields and two archery ranges. There is another equally impressive centre in the south of China.
President Hu has taken a special interest, having visited the team during training in Beijing. China expects again.
ParalympicsGB should be China’s greatest rivals at the Games. They have a proven track record, having finished fourth or higher at the past five Games, and second in both Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004. Lottery funding has increased from £14.8million between 2000 and 2004, to £29.5million in the past four years. The cost of sending the team’s 206 athletes to China has reached an additional £4million, with training camps in Hong Kong and Macau.
Team GB’s strongest athletes are in swimming, sailing and cycling – sports they will rely heavily on for gold medals.
Following the retirement of leading British figures, such as Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan, and powerlifter Emma Brown, there will be a need for new stars in the lead-up to 2012.
The British Paralympic Association and UK Sport are not totally agreed on the number of medals they will win in Beijing. While UK Sport envisages 110 medals – 40 of them gold – Phil Lane, chief executive of ParalympicsGB, thinks “a realistic target is between 35 to 40 gold medals, with 90medals overall”.
A spokesman for UK Sport, said: “The Paralympic Games is a tough one for the team. The Olympic games was always going to be the United States versus China. But with GB number two in the world at the past two Paralympic Games, we are China’s biggest threat.”
The International Paralympic Committee is led by the Lancastrian, Sir Philip Craven. He is a union man, and insists that the Games will “be run for athletes, by athletes”. The IPC, led by Sir Philip, has captured what the Paralympic Movement aims to achieve: the means of enabling athletes from all backgrounds to unite on a single stage, and inspiring and exciting the world with their performances, of mind, body and spirit.
My first Paralympic Games was in Atlanta 1996. I witnessed Bin Hou, a high jumper from China, clearing 1.95metres. In his bounding approach and leap, his feat was effortless and breathtaking, mirroring an Olympic jumper. The only difference was that it was done with one leg.
On any one day at these Games, such moments will grip you time and again. Over the next 11 days, the world will witness the triumphs of the human spirit.
The Paralympics aims for athletes from all backgrounds to unite on a single stage to inspire and excite
WELCOME TO THEPARALYMPICS
Hoy backs Team GB to return as heroesRACHEL QUARRELL
CHRIS HOY, the triple Olympic track cycling champion, returned from Beijing two weeks ago the biggest hero of Team GB, having led the side’s unprecedented medal charge. But, as he told The Sunday Telegraph, he thinks the Paralympic team could do even better.
“We’re quite close to the Paralympic cyclists – we all train together like one big team,” Hoy said. “So, I reckon they’re going to be as successful if not more so than the Olympic cycling team.
“They’ve had all the help we’ve had, coaching, technical support, physios, everything, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did better than us.
“There are a couple of guys in particular who do similar training to me: Anthony Kappes, in the tandem, who has trained with two different pilots, John Norfolk and Barney Storey. He does the same events as me, he’s really impressive. The tandem can go almost as quick as the top international solo sprinters, really fast. Swimmer turned cyclist Jody Cundy, top 10 in the able-bodied competition at the National Championships – he’s really fast.
“If I had any advice for the athletes competing next week, it would be to try and enjoy it for what it is, every moment, and not let the pressure and expectation build up too much. And remember all the hard work has already been done. I tried to relax, and to let it flow.
“There will be some amazing stories coming out of the Paralympics, that’s the great thing about them. Not just about their personal success on the day, but about what they’ve all been through to get there. There will be a number of new faces and heroes coming back, from all kinds of sports.
“I just think the public
needs to get behind Olympic and Paralympic sport, and the powers that be need to keep investing. It’s not just about the next four years – let’s see more people getting involved in sport of all kinds. It’s a great life if you work hard, and put a lot into it, and sport has all kinds of life lessons.
“I hope the Paralympics does get more coverage and recognition now and leading up to London 2012. These guys and girls train as hard and put just as much into it as the Olympic athletes. At the moment there are so many negative things in the press, and about the recession. It’s good to have something positive to get behind.
“As for me, I’m looking forward to getting back on a bike and on the track in the next 10 days. It’s been brilliant but quite surreal the last fortnight, and I’m quite exhausted.”
2012: a unique opportunity for London and the nation to embrace the Paralympics
Chris Hoy: ‘The cyclists will be as successful, if not more so, than the Olympic team’