"The Paralympic Games – which are now among the largest sporting events in the world – serve as a powerful reminder of the inherent dignity of every individual and of what is possible with determination and grit."
At a special Gala Dinner to celebrate the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) 25th anniversary in Berlin, Germany, on Saturday (4 October), IPC President Sir Philip Craven praised the dedication of those who have helped make the organisation what it is today.
The IPC was formed in Dusseldorf, Germany, on 22 September 1989 and on Saturday around 350 specially invited guests including Princess Margriet of the Netherlands; Dr. Thomas de Maizière, the German Minister of the Interior; Bernd Kroemer, Berlin State Secretary and the great and good of the Paralympic Movement gathered to celebrate its silver jubilee.
They were treated to an evening, hosted by four-time British Paralympian Lord Chris Homes and Channel 4’s Daraine Mulvihill, which charted the 25 year history of the IPC.
It included messages of support from many leaders from the world of politics and sport including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, IOC President Thomas Bach, US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Korean President Park Geun-hye and the Rio 2016 Organising Committee.
In his opening speech, IPC President Sir Philip Craven said: “Tonight we celebrate 25 amazing years of the IPC, but in reality we are celebrating a quarter of a century of immeasurable people power.
“What the IPC, its member organisations and volunteer networks have achieved since 1989 is unique and, what many thought, unachievable.
“Building upon the foundations laid by our forefathers, we have created something that has changed the lives of millions and touched the hearts and minds of billions more.
“Back in 1948, volunteers were crucial to the success of Dr Ludwig Guttmann’s first Stoke Mandeville Games. Forty one years later in Dusseldorf, it was again volunteers who created the International Paralympic Committee, laying the platform and structures for the organisation it is today.
“A lot has changed since 1989. But what made us special back then was great people, the same core ingredient that is instrumental to our growth and success today,” added Sir Philip has been IPC President since 2001 and his currently serving his fourth term.
Sir Philip also read out a letter from US President Barack Obama which highlighted the success of the Paralympic Movement’s biggest showcase and looked ahead to the future.
“The Paralympic Games – which are now among the largest sporting events in the world – serve as a powerful reminder of the inherent dignity of every individual and of what is possible with determination and grit.
“Congratulations on this special milestone. As you reflect on a quarter of a century of changing lives and opening minds, I wish you the very best for the years ahead,” the letter read.
The evening started with a recorded video message from Coldplay, the multi-Grammy award winners who performed at the London 2012 Closing Ceremony.
It was then followed by a series of video messages from world leaders.
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General said: “The United Nations congratulates the IPC on its 25th anniversary. You win at promoting sport to unite people. You score big at celebrating diversity. And you are gold medal champion of human rights. I warmly applaud the officials, athletes and others driving the Paralympic Movement.
“You advance progress around the world and I am proud to be your fan.”
IOC President Thomas Bach sent his "heartfelt congratulations" to the IPC: "You can look back on 25 years with great pride but also with great confidence for the future.”
In her address, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel described the Paralympic Movement as “an inspiring success story” with the IPC acting as its driving force.
British Prime Minster Cameron said his country owed the IPC a debt of gratitude for helping to change attitudes and perceptions of people with an impairment through the Paralympic Games.
Looking ahead to the future, Korean President said the IPC had done much to improvement para-sport around the world in the lead-up to PyeongChang2018, whilst Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he hoped the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games would leave a lasting legacy for his country.
In sending his heartfelt congratulations, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “You can look back on 25 years with great pride but also with great confidence for the future.”
During the course of the evening, Germany’s four-time Paralympian Verena Bentele was formally inducted in to the Visa Paralympic Hall of Fame for her multi-medal winning success in Nordic Skiing.
BP also presented the inaugural courage award to the IPC for its achievements over the last 25 years. In future years, the courage award will be presented biennially at the Allianz Paralympic Sport and Media Awards.
Either side of the dinner, between 3-5 October, the IPC is also hosting a strategic conference involving both IPC members and other key interested parties from the wider Paralympic Movement in order to advise on the future direction of the global governing body.