Sir Philip Craven comments on the social impact of the Paralympics

On the occasion of the upcoming London 2012 Paralympic Games, sportanddev speaks with the President of the International Paralympic Committee, Sir Philip Craven about the social impact of the Paralympic Games.
Sir Philip Craven

Sportanddev: Do you believe that the previous versions of Paralympics Games have helped raise awareness surrounding disability issues and increased participation in grassroot disability sports?

Sir Philip Craven: The Paralympic Games have a proven track record for changing society’s perception of people with an impairment and encouraging grassroots participation.

The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games demonstrated that Paralympic Sport has the ability to lead societal change. Before the Games, 83 million people with an impairment were excluded from society.

However, strong co-operation between various parties led to the most successful Paralympics ever in terms of sport and legacy. According to a report published shortly after the Games 72% of people with an impairment agreed that the Paralympics was helpful for them in finding a job.

Leading up to the Games, Beijing invested over RMB1 billion in over 14,000 accessible facilities, the sum of all the past 20 years. The Games brought more legislation on the building of accessible facilities, which triggered massive accessibility construction campaigns in an increasing number of cities across the country covering roads, transport, key public places and famous tourist spots such as the Great Wall of China.

In addition to people having a greater knowledge and understanding of disability, the Games brought about positive changes for people with a disability who now enjoy a better social status; more public attention; public respect; improvement of social security; easier access to employment; better education opportunities and much, much more.

Thanks to the Paralympics, “the image of people with a disability in China is no longer one of a garbage-collector, or of a beggar, but of a football player, a long jumper or a shooter.”


Sportanddev: What, in your opinion, will the most significant social impact of the London 2012 Paralympic Games be?

Sir Philip Craven: I think the London Games will have multiple social impacts and it would be wrong to highlight just one.

In Great Britain we start from a much stronger position in terms of an integrated society compared to China, however this does not mean that the legacies will be any less important.

Accessibility will be improved across the city. The south bank of the Thames is now accessible for all directly as a result of the Games, and although no-one could expect every tube station to be reconfigured and made accessible for all in the seven years since London was awarded the Games, many improvements have been made since 2005.

One of the big legacies could be at Heathrow airport, a place that has not been the best previously for anyone travelling through it with an impairment.

I also think anyone watching the Paralympic Games will be inspired by what they see and this will increase participation in para-sport to record levels.


Sir Philip Craven is, since 2001, the President of the IPC. He represented Great Britain in wheelchair basketball at five editions of the Paralympic Games, from 1972 to 1988. He also competed in track and field athletics and swimming at the 1972 Games.

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