The 15th International Paralympic Committee (IPC) General Assembly came to a close in Beijing, China on Sunday (11 December) with members receiving a review of the last Paralympic Winter Games as well as updates on the next four editions of the Games.
Dena Coward, former Director of Paralympic Games at the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games, started proceedings giving a review of the last Paralympic Winter Games.
She spoke about how Vancouver 2010 had delivered many Paralympic firsts and that targeting youth had been an integral part of the Organizing Committee’s strategy to help change perceptions of people with a disability and deliver the best Winter Games ever.
“At Vancouver 2010 our aim was not to talk about athletes with disabilities but athletes with abilities,” said Coward who highlighted that the Games had received more TV coverage then any ever before, and were the first to be broadcast in HD.
Over 300 hours of coverage to a global audience of 1.58 billion viewers, whilst 10 rights holders distributed pictures to 33 countries. In Canada around one third of the nation (33 million) watched the Games. A total of 84% of tickets for the event were sold making them the most successful and well attended Paralympic Games ever.
In closing Coward said: “We created Paralympic fans and an appreciation of Paralympic Sport.
“We reached or exceeded the goals we had set ourselves.”
The next Paralympic Winter Games will be held in Sochi in 2014 and President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Organizing Committee for those Games Dmitry Chernyshenko was next up to present to the General Assembly.
He opened by saying “Sochi 2014 has given Russia a unique chance to change for the better, and we are taking that chance,” before giving updates on the Sochi 2014 sports programme, venues, transportation, accommodation, and the Organizing Committee’s desire to deliver an accessible Games.
“The creation of a barrier free environment is priority number one for us. It has been approved by the Russian government and more than 20 states are now involved in projects,” stated Chernyshenko.
To ensure this, Sochi 2014 has integrated best practice from previous Paralympic Games into their efforts to deliver the most convenient Games ever.
Sponsorship revenue for the Games now exceeds 99 million US dollars, which Chernyshenko said underlined the health of the Paralympic Brand in Russia.
The Organizing Committee now boasts 600 staff and test events for the Games will start in February 2012 through until September 2013.
“Sochi 2014 is holding more than the Paralympic Games. It’s an inspirational project for the millions of people with a disability who live in Russia. We want to change their lives,” said Chernyshenko who outlined that Paralympic awareness, accessibility and inclusiveness were three key priorities for his team.
“The Russian government is taking unprecedented steps to improve the lives of people with a disability in Russia. Sochi 2014 is the catalyst for this,” he concluded.
Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the London 2012 Organizing Committee (LOCOG), followed Cherynyshenko to tell members about the progress of London 2012 which starts in just 262 days time.
Coe was joined by colleagues Chris Holmes, Director of Paralympic Games Integration and Piers Jones, Sport Competition Group Manager and said he was proud to be bringing the Games back to where they began, referencing Stoke Mandeville.
He paid tribute to Paralympics GB Chair Tim Reddish for his help in ensuring athletes remain at the centre of LOCOG’s work.
“Our focus has not changed,” said Coe. “Athletes are the heart of everything we do.
“By placing them at the centre, you have to get so many other things correct.”
According to statistics presented by Coe, more than one third of people believe the Paralympic Games will bring about a breakthrough for the way people with a disability are viewed in UK. Over half believe the Games will show the world how to treat people with a disability with respect and equality.
London 2012’s reach also impressed delegates. Domestically its education programme ‘Get Set’ is now immersed in 21,000 UK schools, equating to 68% of the total number, while Inspiration International has reached its target of engaging 12 million youngsters in 20 different countries in sport.
“Our big challenge over the next eight months is scaling up the organization to deliver a Games of great complexity,” said Coe who highlighted that LOCOG’s workforce is now increasing by 120 employees a month and will eventually reach a total of 6,000 people by the start of the Games.
Chris Holmes said International Paralympic Day, which was held on 8 September and secured worldwide media coverage, had resulted in some spectacular ticket sales for the forthcoming Games
“In the first ticket window we shifted over one million tickets. Many sessions and some sports are sold out.
“Cycling at the Velodrome sold out, Wheelchair Rugby sold out, Wheelchair Tennis sold out.
“On 2 December when tickets went back on sale, 15,000 tickets were sold in the first 15 minutes.”
Members were updated on the Paralympic torch relay, the popularity of Games mascot Mandeville - who appears on 40% of London 2012 merchandise, venues, test events, operational planning and pre-Games training camps.
A video message from Carlos Nuzman, President of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, started Rio 2016’s presentation before his colleague Agberto Guimaraes, who was in Beijing, detailed the Organizing Committee’s ongoing activities. This included an event held in September to mark five years to go as well as last month’s stunning emblem launch.
Guimaraes also updated members on venues - which will be located in four zones, stakeholder management, Paralympic integration and Rio 2016’s communications plan.
The final update of the day was given by Dongo Hoo Moon, Secretary General of the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Games. The Organizing Committee was only inaugurated one and a half months ago however, Dongo Hoo Moon said he was committed to Korea delivering the best Paralympic Winter Games ever.
The IPC General Assembly is the supreme governing body of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and meets every two years. It determines policy for, and sets the fundamental directions for the development of sports for athletes with an impairment.