Chris Holmes: Time to Get Behind Games

First published on Huffington Post, LOCOG's Director of Paralympic Integration Chris Holmes gives his view on 100 days to go until London 2012. 21 May 2012
Olympic Park sunrise

The sun rising over the London 2012 Olympic Park

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"The next 100 days will be a time to get behind the Paralympic Games, as a spectator, volunteer or supporter. Historically hosting the Paralympics has always had a positive impact on society’s attitudes to disability."

As part of our bid in 2005, we made a commitment to a totally integrated approach to the planning and delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

What that has meant in practice is that at every stage of the process and whatever area it’s in - be it sport, the venues, workforce – the Olympic and Paralympic Games have had equal status at every stage.

Monday, as we mark 100 days to go until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the journey to date and the final steps on the road to one of the greatest sporting events in the world.

I am in the middle of a month-long tour of schools and it’s been a magical experience speaking to young Gamesmakers who will be volunteering at the London 2012 Games, playing Paralympic sports with young people who are trying something new for the first time and hearing how the Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality have inspired them in life.

Young people are absolutely core to our commitment to use the London 2012 Games in a transformative way and it is so inspiring to hear their overwhelmingly positive responses. But it’s not just children and young people who are already getting involved and benefitting from London hosting the Games. Millions of people here in the UK are already inspired and involved, through the many sports participation programmes going on, such as the Sainsbury's Million kid challenge and by volunteering at the Games or in local communities.

Another way people can show their support is by joining the hundreds of thousands of people who will be going to watch this unmissable sporting event live. A million tickets to the Paralympic Games have already been snapped up and Monday we are putting a further million tickets on sale, covering every sport and giving everyone a chance to experience the fantastic venues ranging from those in the Olympic Park, to ExCeL and Brands Hatch.

Tickets start from £5 for young people ages 16 and under and seniors ages 60 and over, and full price tickets start at just £10. If you can’t choose which sport takes your fancy, you can go for day passes at the Olympic Park or ExCel which will allow you to take your pick from four or five different sports on one day.

Whatever ticket you decide to go for, I can guarantee that Paralympic Sport will leave a deep and lasting impression on you.

Every single athlete involved in the Paralympic Games is an incredible sportsman or woman and I urge everyone to take this once-in-a-lifetime chance of a home Games to be there and to form memories that will last a lifetime.

The next 100 days will be a time to get behind the Paralympic Games, as a spectator, volunteer or supporter.

Historically hosting the Paralympics has always had a positive impact on society’s attitudes to disability. I’ve seen that in a number of Games I’ve been lucky enough to compete in. When we went to South Korea in 1988 for the Seoul Paralympic Games, as soon as we arrived you could sense how the essence of the Paralympic Games and the spirit of the athletes and the Games themselves really started to affect that city and ripple out across the country.

We believe that people’s ideas about disability will change through this simple act of coming along to the Paralympic Games, watching Paralympic Sport and seeing supreme athletic performances by people like Oscar Pistorius, the ‘Blade Runner’, or David Weir powering his wheelchair by his hands at 32 miles an hour.

Or Wheelchair Rugby, a phenomenal sport which probably a lot of people have never witnessed before. It’s such a tough sport – with athletes smashing into each other with such power, they don’t just have a physio on the side of the court, they have a welder to fix their wheelchairs. It will show you what athletes can do, not what they can’t do.

We have the opportunity with the London 2012 Paralympic Games to really help change how people view disabled people and disability sport. The Paralympic Games are like nothing you will have ever experienced before – they bring their own unique passion, drama and emotion.

So come and see sport like never before, try something new and I guarantee it will be the experience of a lifetime.

Chris Holmes is London 2012's Director of Paralympic Integration and was speaking to Huffington Post.

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