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How will the Paralympic movement sustain the momentum of London 2012?

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How will the Paralympic movement sustain the momentum of London 2012?

President of the British Paralympic Association (BPA), Tim Reddish, speaks exclusively to sportanddev about the power of the Paralympic movement and why legacy is just a word. 

Legacy

remains the buzz word around this year's Games, but what does it mean? Sir Phillip Craven told sportanddev before the Paralympics that grassroots participation, city infrastructure such as accessibility and perceptions would change, but what can the world build on now that the Games are over?

Reddish, a former Paralympian himself, believes the end of London 2012 is just the beginning, as the Paralympic movement reaches a stage of global recognition, the legacy will be what we make of it.

What is the legacy?
"We are possibly being seen as controversial at the BPA at the moment because we don’t believe in it. Legacy to us implies that you have a steady foundation and you are ready to push it further and for us, I don’t think we are quite there yet," says Reddish.

"The British Paralympic Association's strategy is to maximize momentum, these games have given us unbelievable momentum. How people think and feel towards Paralympic sport has changed, so how we sustain it is up to the public in the UK and the backing of the government."

Speaking in favour of increased ministerial partnerships between sport, education and health, Tim sees integration into wider structures as key to sustaining a lasting impact of the Games:

"The debate between discrete and segregated or integrated and inclusive school sport will help athlete identification because they know where they are. There is definitely a need for more physical activity in schools. Sport can be a catalyst for developing confidence and self-belief that will transfer into the classroom."

The strength of the Paralympic movemen
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As the UK has a strong history of Paralympic sport, hosting the first athletic games for people with disabilities to coincide with the London Games in 1948, the attitudes of the media and the general public has remained reserved until now.

This year's Paralympic Games coverage has broken broadcaster records in the UK, which seemed almost impossible 20 years ago, as Reddish recalls coverage after the Barcelona Games in 1992: “I came back from Barcelona and there was one and a half hours on TV, and swimming only showed the athletes swimming in the water, you wouldn’t see them dive in or get out of the pool, because there as a fear that people didn’t want to see half naked people with limbs missing. That’s where we were.

You only have to look at the kids when we talk about the social side and the legacy, thousands of children walking through the Olympic park not starring and pointing at disabled people, 25 years ago, people in wheelchairs would have been starred and pointed at."

Will the media continue to cover disability sport? “The media has helped people’s understanding of sport and how people have adapted their technical skills to participate in the field of play and that it’s no longer the case of a disabled person in sport, but how the athletes have adapted their technique," he says.

The responsibility of the community
Despite the increased media coverage, Reddish also believes that the disabled community has a responsibility to continue the legacy of the Games. "The disabled community has a responsibility to help mentor the non-disabled community. I use mentor rather than educate because education is easy if you have a pamphlet, mentorship involves creating an understanding. Changing perceptions is easy, changing practices is harder."

The Paralympic effect
With the chance to meet delegates from around the world, Reddish describes the powerful impact the Paralympic Games is beginning to have in next host nation, Brazil.

"Before Rio won the bid to host the Games, they had 25 million people registered as disabled, that was in 2009. In 2011, because of the growth of Paralympic movement, they had 40 million people registered. The power the Games has given the disability community confidence and self-belief."

Find out more about the social legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

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Author

Mel Paramasivan

Published

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - 23:00