“After taking so many steps forward with the best Paralympic Games ever in London, it is important that we do not take a step back. We must all continue to enjoy working together to progress and develop our Movement for the benefit of all."
As we embark on the New Year, you might be wondering how on earth do we follow 2012, a year that propelled the Paralympic Movement to new heights.
The simple fact is that we don’t follow, we build on it!
After taking so many steps forward with the best Paralympic Games ever in London, it is important that we do not take a step back. We must all continue to enjoy working together to progress and develop our Movement for the benefit of all.
With London 2012 we have witnessed a seismic shift in some countries attitudes towards people with an impairment. We have seen athletes become household names, and the profile of many sports grow to new levels. More countries and athletes than ever before are involved in the Movement and it is of paramount importance that this trend continues apace.
Living in Great Britain it is a joy to see so many Paralympians still enjoying time in the spotlight, appearing on prime-time TV talk shows and in newspapers. This last Sunday Patrick Collins one of Great Britain’s most respected sports journalists said this about the Paralympics in his weekly column in the Mail on Sunday: “The Paralympics were no longer worthy and esoteric. In less than two weeks, they had moved into the mainstream. It was perhaps the most significant advance that British sport made all year. And when they ended, in lachrymose lashings of Coldplay, the melancholy began in earnest.” I think Patrick sums the Games up perfectly.
Aside from the extra publicity Paralympic sport is receiving it is also encouraging to see that both Sport England and UK Sport, the bodies who fund grassroots and elite sport in Great Britain, have significantly increased their funding to Paralympic sport as a result of 2012.
I’m aware that Great Britain is not unique in this success. From my many travels I’m glad to say I am seeing this picture being replicated in many countries around the world which is great news.
I’d personally like to thank all those involved in delivering the Paralympic Movement’s most successful year to date in 2012. From my experiences in life, it takes at least 10 years of diligent work to achieve major objectives. 2012 delivered an amazing rendition of the IPC vision “to enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world”. I will tell you a little later where I think we can go even further in the 2013-2016 quadrennium.
Busy year ahead
If last year was busy getting ready for London, then 2013 is set to be even busier with multiple world and regional Championships, not to mention the many Test Events for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
In 2013 the Paralympic Movement will witness at least 10 World Championships, starting in February when Sochi, Russia hosts the Wheelchair Curling World Championships, an event that doubles up as a Test Event for 2014.
Then in quick succession there will be World Championships in Alpine Skiing, Archery, Athletics, Cross Country Skiing, Road Cycling, Ice Sledge Hockey, Rowing, Sailing and Swimming, whilst most other sports will stage regional Championships.
For the summer sports that host major Championships it is important for them to maintain and try and build on the level of competition that was achieved in London. It is also vitally important that we all work together to sustain the media interest generated in 2012. The world’s media has a key role to play in all our progress and hopefully 2013 is the year they realise that the athletes who inspired and excited the world in London compete every year, not just every four years at the Paralympics.
In terms of winter sport it is all about building for Sochi 2014 with the world’s best athletes testing out their opponents in World Championships before testing out the venues in the city that will stage the next Paralympic Winter Games. Just like in London, I hope a record number of National Paralympic Committee’s will attend March’s final Chef de Mission seminar in Sochi.
Whilst gearing up for yet another action packed year of sport, from an IPC point of view it is vital that we do not take our eye off our six strategic goals located at the centre of the 3rd IPC Strategic Plan 2011-2014. Although a record number of athletes and countries took part in London, the need for continued athlete development was underlined by the fact that 45 per cent of all athletes came from just 10 countries. In contrast 46 countries sent just one athlete. The Agitos Foundation, launched by the IPC during London 2012, will support and, if necessary, take the lead in global athlete development. Next year’s Youth Para Pan American Games and Asian Para Games will provide a great opportunity for a new generation of athletes to enter the international arena.
With the Paralympic Movement’s future more secure thanks to the latest IOC/IPC Partnership and Co-operation Agreements, the IPC is now aiming to capitalise on London 2012 both commercially and in terms of broadcasting. Already we are close to announcing a broadcaster who, in an innovative two package deal, will not just screen the 2014 and 2016 Paralympic Games in their respective country, but also cover some of the world and regional Championships in between.
It is in this area of “inspiring and exciting the entire world” through wider broadcast coverage and in promoting many new athletes in all our member nations that the IPC vision can be achieved even more fully in 2013 and beyond.
Clearly 2013 is going to be a very busy year for all of us. I’d like to wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year and thank you for your continued support and efforts.