A Danish city has taken the promotion of sport for inclusion and equality to the next level, declaring 2019 as the “Year of Para Sport”. The Municipality of Vejle has also appointed itself the “capital” of Para sport in its quest to create sport on equal terms and give possibilities to all its citizens.
The city is already making a name for itself on the international Para sport scene, hosting a Tokyo 2020 qualification event in Para dressage in March ahead of staging the 2019 Wheelchair Rugby European Championships in August.
But Vejle’s vision goes beyond sporting competitions. It also wants to focus on Para sports throughout the year through other events including talks at libraries, theatre shows, speeches and exhibitions in the city centre.
Vejle Deputy Mayor Dan Arnlov Jorgensen said: “For the capital of Para sport, the conditions for Para athletes is vital and we have set a clear goal to develop, support, educate and through this, make Para sports known and more common in our municipality.”
It is an investment Velje is convinced will pay off in the long run – not only in the form of more athletes and Para sport opportunities, but also to secure health and well-being and a more nuanced view of people with disabilities.
The city has already proved its willingness to improve accessibility through sport. After staging the 2015 Para Table Tennis European Championships, Vejle upgraded the hotel nearest to the venue to make it fully accessible.
It means more than 100 wheelchair users can now be accommodated for August’s Euros.
Paralympic Committee Denmark Sports Director Michael Mollgaard Nielsen said: "It is a gift for us to work with the Municipality of Vejle, who puts a great effort in pursuing their admirable ambition.
"[It is] all to spread the fascination for Para sports as much as possible and hopefully inspire other cities to do the same."
Velje also has its very own Para Sport Council. Formed in 2016, it includes members of sports associations, local companies, politicians and Para athletes.
Tage Schmidt, Chairman of the Para Sport Council, added: “In the Council, we believe in partnerships and with the help of the municipality, members and leaders of the sports associations in Vejle together with companies, we can make a great effort.”