From Saturday, Paralympic hopefuls across the world will have just 200 more days to prepare for London 2012. ParalympicsGB’s Craig Hunter explains how the British team are preparing during the final countdown to the Games and why they are determined to be a credit to the vision of Paralympics creator Dr Ludwig Guttman.
My role at the British Paralympic Association (BPA) is Chef de Mission, which means I have the honour of leading the ParalympicsGB team during the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
As a result, I spend all my time working with a great support team including operations, media and healthcare, all of whom are planning every detail that the British team will experience during the ten days of competition which will comprise the Paralympics. I know that the pressure is on for me and my team to do the best job we can: it’s crucial that we get every detail right so that we can ensure a world-class environment for the athletes and maximise their chances of winning a medal.
But the pressure is on for another reason too: the Paralympic Games is coming home. The roots of the Paralympic Games are here, in Great Britain, at the first Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948. There, Dr Ludwig Guttman organised the first archery competition for injured servicemen who were in rehabilitation after fighting in the Second World War. The ambition was to provide not just physical rehabilitation, but also an event which would encourage competitive spirit and a focus for training.
Both LOCOG and the team at the BPA are conscious that we want the London Games to be a credit to Dr Guttman’s vision. LOCOG are going to put on a fantastic show, and all the hard work done by the ODA in building brilliant venues has undoubtedly paid off.
We are already seeing how much interest the Paralympic Games is generating, not just with our national media but internationally as well. I believe London 2012 will generate the most media interest the Paralympic Games has ever had, and that will undoubtedly benefit us in our ambition to inspire a new generation of disabled people to take up sport. Hopefully the international reach of the Paralympic Games will have the same effect on disabled people in other countries too.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Paralympic Games in London will be the best there has ever been, and we are working hard to ensure the performances of the British team are just as inspirational as the venues and atmosphere they will be competing in.
But the Paralympic Games is not just for disabled people, it is for everyone. I have yet to meet someone who watches Paralympic sport and is not caught up in the excitement and passion on display. Therefore I would encourage anyone who has not yet got their tickets for the Paralympic Games to do so when they go on sale again on spring. They are affordable and the innovative ‘day pass’ in particular will enable you to watch several sports in one day, some of which you may not have seen before.
I cannot wait to see the stands in London, filled with British supporters and Union Jacks, cheering on the British team.
Find out more about the Paralympics on the International Paralympic Committee’s website. Find out more about disability sport and how you could get involved on the Parasport website.
Photo courtesy British Paralympic Association