I don’t know what seems more surprising, the fact that its 3 years since the London 2012 Paralympic Games, or that we are only 1 year from start of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on September 7th 2016!
But before we look ahead, lets take another look back. No one, no matter which country they come from, could disagree that London 2012 was the greatest Paralympic games ever. Transforming peoples perceptions of disability, and opening the eyes of the world to “Super humans” or as we call them Paralympians.
Yes athletes have performed for many generations; I know this because I was one of them, but never in front of 80,000 adoring fans. When I raced in Athens 2004, it was in front of 35,000 people on one of the biggest nights in the Athletics calendar, and we thought that was a big crowd. So I apologize that this piece is athletics biased, but that’s the sport I know.
The London stadium saw 80,000 twice a day for 10 days. That’s 160,000 a day and 1.6million over the 10 days, and that’s just one sport and one venue, athletics. Words cannot explain what that did for the Paralympic movement, children were heard saying, “Mummy, I want to be a Paralympian”. Add to this the award winning coverage from Channel 4 and Paralympic sport was suddenly in a very healthy place.
So first thoughts post London, once the post boxes had been painted gold and the gongs awarded was, is this the new world of disability sport or was this just a one off, people who couldn’t get tickets for the Olympics, but wanted to see the stadium no matter what?
The first big test was the anniversary games 2013, once again in the Olympic stadium. Doubts were answered; there was a full stadium and the same level of support and passion from the crowd. It really felt that this was the future!
2014 was a bit different as the games where not staged in London, and athletics was staged as a street games. 2015 saw the first major events since the stadium was closed to be re-designed for football. Expectations were high; the able-bodied athletics saw a full stadium. Sunday was the turn of the Paralympians, with attendance of 25,000. Pre London 2012 this would have been considered a success, its amazing how our perception and expectation has changed, as we saw it as a failure. Although for the international athletes, especially the ones who had not competed in 2012, this is why they love racing in the UK as back home they still experience the same as we did 10yrs ago, 3 men and a dog in the stands. So I guess we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves with only 25,000!!!!!
So where do we go from here. Well unless you have a friend or member of the family competing in Rio, it is unlikely you will travel, but there is a domestic season and you can follow the athletes online and all the action at Rio on the TV.
2017 is the IPC Athletics World championships; once again back in the stadium in London. So lets start looking ahead to seeing our greatest Paralympians performing on the track there.... to a full capacity stadium!