The Paralympics has captured the nation’s imagination this week and proved once again that London has the ability to do things better than anywhere else in the world. Why is the 2012 Paralympics the greatest yet? We’re glad you asked?
If ‘big’ means better then this Paralympics is the one for you. In the 52 years that have passed since the first âParallel Olympicsâ back at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948, the Paralympics have been steadily growing and with and unprecedented 164 countries taking part (17 more than Beijing 2008) and a whopping 4,200 athletes competing, not to mention a reported 2,300 officials, this yearâs extravaganza is far and away the biggest yet.
I may have mentioned earlier that London and the UK is feeling pretty good about itself right now and the accomplishments of our event planning, coupled with the achievements of British athletes has made the population ravenous for live sport. We love it, we crave it, Good Lord we demand it! So much so that 2.4 million of the 2.5 million tickets available were sold before Wednesdayâs opening ceremony and organisers are confident that that remainder will be sold in matter of days, making the 2012 London Paralympics the first sell out games in its history.
3. Television Coverage
These Paralympics, more than any before them, can help change the perception of people with disabilities on a planetary scale. 36 international media companies have signed television broadcast deals covering 100 countries, meaning more people will tune into these games than ever before. Already that has generated a gigantic leap in viewing figures, with 11.2 million people watching last weekâs opening ceremony, thatâs an increase of 8.4 million from Beijing 2008.
Team GB is pretty good. In fact not only is it pretty good you could almost argue that we are a Paralympics Powerhouse, coming second behind China in the 2008 games where the UK recorded an remarkable 102 medals, 42 of which were Gold. We’re currently in second place behind China again, but facing some stiff competition from Australia, Ukraine and Russia for the runners-up spot. Check out the live medals table here..
London 2012 is the first Paralympics to be directly planned alongside the main event. From its inception Olympic Park was designed with extra wide corridors and ramps for ease of access, buses have been modified so that wheelchair users can travel easily with their team mates; even the podiums have been enhanced. As Londonâs public transport system is already geared up and ready to go, it means that the athletes and as well the spectators will be able to take full advantage of the facilities the capital has in place.
6. Murder Ball
Murder Ball! Or as it is now officially known, Wheelchair Rugby. Is a thrilling, no holds barred, full contact, beast of a sport, players dextrously flick and toss the ball to each other as they seek to score tries but at the same time they lock horns, bust heads and smash each other to the ground. Check out this video for a taster..
7. The Competitors
There are some tremendous stories to be heard from the athletes, Zoe Newson, the UKâs teenage Powerlifting Champion, Ben Rushgrove World Record holder in the 200 metres or Matt Stutzman who despite having no arms is a top competitor as part of the United States Archery Team. I am excited by these people not just by how they have achieved so much against the odds but for my own selfish reasons. Through their personalities and successes, I hope the world can re learn what a celebrity really is and we can stop having the inane nocturnal activities of soap stars and reality shows winners forced down our throats.
8. The Blade Runner
For an event to truly strand out from the rest it needs an icon, someone who sets it apart, a name people can remember either through their ability or sheer force of personality. People like the Williams Sisters, Lionel Messi or Ussain Bolt and South Africaâs Oscar Pistorius more than fits the bill.
Having already competed in the 400m and 400m Relay at the 2012 Olympics, the âfastest man on no legsâ? will be breaking new ground just by turning up, as he becomes the first person to compete in both Games. With the unprecedented television exposure of this year Paralympics Pistoriusâs star is now set to rise and rise.
He missed out on Gold in the 200 metres to Brazillian blade-runner Alan Oliveira, but will still be hoping to defend the three other golds he claimed in China last time out.
9. The Legacy
When Doctor Ludwig Guttman set up the first Paralympics at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948, he did so in order to give his patients something to live for, to show them that they were not to be looked down upon or hidden away by an ignorant and uncaring society. He also wanted to teach the world the same lessons.
It was a grand and noble vision and I think Dr Guttman would be astounded at how the Games have advanced in such a short time. It is appropriate, that what looks set to be a watermark in the development of the Games, is happening on British soil and with such a high standard of coverage, organisation and funding for the event we can look forward to great thing in Rio 4 years from now.