Paralympics in London set to be transformational
The London Paralympics are set to be a watershed moment for the sporting movement.
THE London Paralympics are set to be a watershed moment for the sporting movement.
They have generated unprecedented levels of interest in the United Kingdom with predictions of the first-ever sold-out Games.
The Brits have been swept up in the feel good factor from the Olympics with up to 2.5 million tickets tipped to be purchased for the 12 days of competition following Wednesday’s opening ceremony.
“This one is transformational, this is like Sydney (in 2000),” Australian team chef de mission Jason Hellwig said.
“Athens and Beijing were great Games but they were incremental to a certain extent in their growth and that is no disrespect to either of their Games.
“But these Games and campaign has been transformative for us.
“There is nothing about what we are doing now that we were doing two years ago.”
A heavy promotional campaign and the clamour from those that missed out on Olympic tickets have created intense demand for the Paralympic tickets.
Hellwig hoped the increased coverage helped to change public perceptions for people with disabilities.
“Sport is such a powerful thing for the way that people and societies operate,” Hellwig said.
“The Paralympics show that disability is a very normal part of being human.
It is quite a homecoming for the Games.
The Paralympics were the brainchild of visionary German doctor Ludwig Guttmann, who fled to the UK from the Nazi regime in 1939.
He used sport for the rehabilitation of injured servicemen and organised a hospital games at the same time as the 1948 London Olympics.
The Games eventually evolved into what is recognised as the first Paralympics in Rome in 1960.
London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said: “Without sounding too nationalistic or even jingoistic about it, it was created here in ’48, we drove all the early stages of the movement.
“A lot of us do feel they are coming home.”
It is hard to imagine what Guttmann would make of the 2012 Paralympics with 4,200 athletes set to compete from 165 countries.
That includes the sport’s truly global star, South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius, who reportedly earns more than $1 million a year in endorsements.
International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven says the support has created a special buzz for athletes as they move into the Games’ Village.
“The Paralympic movement has come of age,” he said.
“Having a sellout is amazing.
“A sellout prior to the Games starting is unheard of … it makes you feel good as an athlete.” – AAP
Image: Wheelchair rugby star Greg Smith, who has been selected to carry the flag for the Australian Paralympic Team, at the flagbearer announcement at Cardiff Castle, Wales. (AAP Image/Sport the library, Jeff Crow)
Are you looking forward to 2012 London Paralympics? Tell us why below: