The legacy of the Paralympics will live on

by Jon Cronshaw
Eight months since the Paralympic Games came to a close, it seems that
Paralympic sport is growing from strength to strength, with a new
generation of impaired athletes being inspired by the 2012 games.

Craig Spence, Director of Communications for the International
Paralympic Committee spoke to Leeds Northern about the future of the
Paralympic Games.

He said: “The 2012 games were great. It was the first time that a country had
been determined to make a difference. Seb Coe was committed to making
the games of equal splendour. The results are there for all to see,
ticket sales were through the roof, we had 3.8 billion TV viewers
around the world.”

But is not simply the number of people seeing the event that was
important. It was the ability of the Games to change the perception of
disabled people in wider society.

He said: “The games have had some
fantastic results when it comes to changing the perceptions of
disabled people around the world – and the momentum is continuing. The
plans that are in place for Rio actually go one step further.”

Indeed, the perception of the paralymic sport as something equally
important to Olympic sport has been a challenge. But bring ticket
prices in line with other elite sports has had a big impact in raising
its profile. Craig explained: “You don’t go to an elite sporting event
and not expect to pay. We charged a small amount at Athens and
Beijing, but London was the first time we priced it like an elite
sporting event – and it worked.”

What is perhaps more important than the games themselves, is the
impact they have had on wider society beyond the games. Craig said:
“We don’t like to talk about legacy – we talk about momentum. The
momentum is that more people are practicing paralympic sport, there’s
more coverage for paralympians outside of the Paralympic Games, and
different attitudes to impairment are coming through.”

With cuts to disability benefits and the closures of sports and
leisure centres across the country, one might be led to assume that
this would damage the momentum of Paralympic sport. Craig said: “I
think that the government has actually done a good job engaging people
– they’ve invested a lot in the British Paralympic Association. If you
look at Sport England and UK Sport’s latest round of funding they’ve
invested more money in Paralympic sport than ever before.”

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