Craven Calls on Paralympic Movement to Face Next Big Challenge

24 Sep 2010 By IPC

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Closing Ceremony to mark the end of the first Paralympic Games, Sir Philip Craven, the President of the International Paralympic Committee, has called on the Paralympic Movement to gear up for their next big challenge - creating many, many new athletes around the world.

It was on 25 September 1960 that the first official Paralympic Games came to a close after seven days of competition involving 400 athletes from 23 countries.

The Games proved a real landmark and since Rome the Paralympic Games have taken place every four years and continue to grow in size and stature.

Even though more than 4,200 athletes are expected to compete in London 2012 - a 950 per cent increase on 1960 - participation in Paralympic sport at the grassroots level has not grown at the same rate and this is something that must change in the coming years according to the IPC President.

"What has been achieved in the last 50 years since Rome has been quite remarkable," said Sir Philip. "Not just for the International Paralympic Committee based in Bonn but for the hundreds of thousands of athletes, coaches, volunteers and paid staff around the world who have all worked tirelessly to make it all possible.

"The Paralympic Spirit has never been stronger but we must not become complacent. We must recognize our challenges for the next 50 years and identify how we can best overcome them.

"Increasing participation at all levels from the grassroots right through to elite competition is certainly one of those challenges and we must face it head on.

"Even though we've seen the numbers taking part in the Summer Paralympics rise 10 fold in the last 50 years, we've not seen the numbers at grassroots increase at the same rate and this must be addressed going forward by working together with National Paralympic Committees and International Sports Federations around the world.

"The more people who take part, the greater chance there is of attracting more sponsorship and generating more media interest. This can only be beneficial to the Paralympic Movement."

As well as increasing the number of people involved in Paralympic Sport, Sir Philip Craven, a five-time Paralympian in wheelchair basketball and swimming during the 1970's and 1980's, also believes standards at major competitions need to be continually improved.

Sir Philip Craven said: "What we've seen since 1960 and Rome is that the Paralympic Games have improved significantly, not only in terms of numbers but also in standards. You only have to look at the last two Games in Beijing in 2008 and Vancouver earlier this year to see what superb events the Paralympic Games have become for all those involved.

"The key now for the hosts of the next Games in London, Sochi and Rio is to build on this success and make the Games even better. The success that the London Organizing Committee has had in attracting Channel 4 and sponsors such as Sainsbury's and BT to the 2012 Games is a result of what has been achieved previously.

"We now need to ensure that the standard set for the Summer and Winter Games are also rolled out at continental multi-sport events such as the Asian Para Games in Guangzhou later this year or single sport World Championships like the IPC Athletics World Championships which will take place in Christchurch, New Zealand next January."

Although there is clearly much more to do and achieve, Craven believes the Paralympic Movement has defied many expectations since Rome and will continue to do so.

"I don't think anyone involved in the Rome 1960 Paralympics would have predicted that the Games would grow to the size they are now. Hopefully in another 50 years time we can look back and say the same not just about the Summer and Winter Games but also all the other events in the Paralympic calendar," added Craven.