New BPA CEO Hollingsworth says 'Our Time is Now' with one year to go to the 2012 Paralympic GamesSubscribe
BPA 23 August 2011
With just over one year to go until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, new British Paralympic Association Chief Executive Tim Hollingsworth today stated clearly his belief that the Games can offer a moment of real transformation for Paralympic sport in this country.
At a press conference in London with Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, and David Weir, Beijing Double Gold Medallist, Hollingsworth confirmed the BPA’s ambition to match up to the impressive medal tally of 42 gold medals in Beijing, and target second place in the medal table for London. While competition is increasingly tough in Paralympic sport, with the likes of Australia, Brazil and the Ukraine investing heavily alongside China, home nation support for Paralympic sport into London means that continuing the incredible achievement of finishing second for the fourth Summer Games in succession is achievable.
Hollingsworth also made clear his view that the Games must not just be about the performance of the athletes but can also be transformational in terms of wider attitudes and perceptions to disability in the UK.
He said: “Holding the Paralympic Games can have a profound effect on the host country. That was seen in Beijing where the achievements of people with an impairment, who had once been hidden away, were celebrated by the whole nation, and again in Vancouver, where ice hockey fans sat on their skateboards to play sledge hockey in the streets during the Paralympics. For the young people in Vancouver, this was just a different and uniquely cool way of playing their sport. Crucially they saw past the disability and just saw elite athletes playing a really exciting version of a game they loved.
”Now it’s our turn. We want the great British public to embrace our sports and athletes the way that the Canadians did in Vancouver and the Chinese did in Beijing. We want people to watch our athletes produce their best ever performances, and we are working hard every day to help make this a reality. We want people to see how our athletes are truly parallel to their Olympic counterparts. The Paralympics here in the UK can step out of the shadow of the Olympic Games. Our time is now.
“For us, a successful Home Games is not just about maintaining our second place on the medal table in the face of increasing competition, it’s about raising the profile of Paralympic sport and British Paralympians. We know that if we do this, the effect of British success will be felt beyond 9 September 2012, when the Paralympic flame goes out. Our achievement will not just measured in medals but in the awareness and understanding we have created, and the barriers we have helped to break down, through the power of sport, to produce a more inclusive society.”
These thoughts were echoed by the President of the International Paralympic Committee, Sir Philip Craven who said: “The London 2012 Paralympic Games will quite simply be ‘Sport Like Never Before’. Our elite athletes will captivate billions around the world, will inspire millions, and ultimately lead societal change and help alter perceptions of what can be achieved by a person with an impairment.”
Paralympian David Weir, veteran of three Games and six Paralympic medals, said separately: "As elite athletes, we just want to get the same level of recognition and respect as our Olympic teammates. The Beijing Paralympic Games was something really special, but London now presents me with a chance to win medals in front of the whole country in my home city, in front of friends and family including my two children. It’s hard to believe it’s only 12 months away now, I’ve been in the stadium and imagining racing in front of a full crowd made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I know the nation will get behind us, I can’t wait to play my part and make Great Britain proud.”
The ambition for medal success at London 2012 was also separately endorsed today by Peter Keen, Director of Performance at UK Sport, the body responsible for investing in support for Paralympic athletes in the four years building up to the Games.
He said: “One year out from the start of the Paralympic Games in London, it is fantastic to see a number of our Paralympic sports meeting and even exceeding their own targets for the current season. The progress that British Paralympic sport has made since Beijing leaves me confident that our Paralympians will be able to achieve our goal of retaining second place in the Paralympic medal table in 2012, winning more medals across more sports than they did in Beijing.”