Over the two years to go to the London Paralympic Games period I have been lucky enough to tour the nations and regions to promote everything Paralympic.
The tour started in Hereford at the World Blind Football Championship. A performance by the England team saw them turn over South Korea on the day I was there. The team went on to reach the semi finals – only losing out to Brazil, the eventual champions. The tournament also demonstrated a great connection between sport and art, with an exhibition of the Focus Here Inspire Mark project with some excellent interactive installations.
Next stop was the North West to attend the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Manchester and the Brazilian National Paralympic Committee. Brazilian Paralympians will do their pre-games training in the city, a real clear example of sport and business benefits from the London 2012 project. We also took in a fantastic new facility in Sefton, where the full range of water sports activities were available to both able bodied and disabled participants.
Then on to the South West. Attending the Paralympics GB training camp at Bath University brought back so many fond memories of my time on the team. The sports facilities at Bath are quite outstanding and will give British Paralympians exactly what they need as they approach the home games. Again it was great to have the opportunity to check out some local Inspire projects which were clearly helping people across the region in a really practical way.
Friday was a big day with Sainsbury’s launching their ground breaking sponsorship of the London Paralympic Games. This is an extraordinary deal for Paralympic sport. Three key numbers to consider – Sainsbury’s have 153,000 staff; almost 1,000 stores across the country; but here’s the rub, 20 million of us go through a Sainsbury’s store every week. That’s a third of the country who have the opportunity to be exposed to the Paralympic project every week over the coming two years – what a fantastic opportunity for Paralympic sport and for individual Great British Paralympians.
The tour continues over what will be the Games time in 2012 (29 August – 9 September) with visits, amongst others, to the East, finishing in Northern Ireland on the 9th.
What has been great about the tour so far is just being able to see on the ground across the country how the Paralympic Games is having such a practical positive impact on people’s lives.
We have two years to go. I want to be able to say in the autumn of 2012, that we were able to deliver on our promise and ensure that these were truly everyone’s Paralympic Games.
Chris Holmes is Director of Paralympic Integration at LOCOG. Read more blogs from Chris.