BPA Chief Heralds Ground Breaking Year But Says Journey Only Just Begun
11 months ago
New Year message states “We are not at the summit but still in the foothills” when it comes to lasting change.
2012 has been a defining year for the Paralympic movement in the UK but there is still much more to be achieved if we are to ensure lasting impact, according to Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association.
In a New Year Message at the end of a year that saw the London 2012 Paralympic Games heralded by the IPC as the greatest ever, Hollingsworth emphasised his belief that the positive impact of the Paralympic movement can effect wider change in society, but the journey has only just started and everyone involved must now work hard to maximise the momentum London has created.
“What has been achieved by the Paralympic movement in the UK this year has been nothing short of phenomenal. We got a sense something incredible could happen when, at One Year to Go, we saw Trafalgar Square packed with people eager to find out more about Paralympic sport.
“But who would have thought that the Games would be a sell out, with stadia full for every session, that almost 40 million people would watch the coverage on C4 or that our athletes would have been on the front and back pages of every newspaper throughout the Games?
“The level of engagement in those amazing eleven days was something that was beyond our wildest dreams and what has followed since has also exceeded expectations. Within five days of the closing ceremony, we had sealed a deal with a major commercial sponsor in Sainsbury’s – added to that already in place with BT and with more on the way that shows clearly the appetite there is to engage. ParalympicsGB athletes are also being feted up and down the land, on TV shows and in the press – and with the stories being about their achievements not their impairments.
“We were clear before the Games that success in 2012 for us was also about shifting perceptions of disabled people. Here too, we’ve been delighted with early results. Research from Channel 4 showed that 83% of their viewers agreed that C4’s coverage will improve society’s perceptions of disabled people and recent BBC research showed that three-quarters of Britons feel more positive about the role of disabled people following the Paralympics.
“Perhaps the most pleasing statistic came from research conducted by our member the English Federation of Disability Sport, who showed that after watching the Paralympics, eight out of ten disabled people were considering taking up sport.
“This has been born out not just in the huge increase in the number of visitors to Parasport, the online signposting that we run with Deloitte but also at out at our inaugural ParalympicsGB’s Sport Fest at the beginning of December. Here over 1,000 people came through the door, all eager to ‘meet the medallists, try the sports and get inspired’. The Sport Fest was designed to capture the inspirational impact of the Games and encourage more participation.
“As the year draws to a close three more important milestones for the Paralympic movement have emerged: at SPOTY for the first time we had three athletes in the final shortlist, two Paralympians picked up awards and ParalympicsGB shared Team of the Year with Team GB.
“This was followed by the important announcement from UK Sport that funding into the world class programme for Paralympic sport was up 43% on the Beijing cycle and the equally important news from Sport England about their record breaking investment into disabled sport.
“And we have had two major new sporting events announced for disability sport with the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships coming to Glasgow and the 2017 IPC Athletics World Championships returning to the Stadium at Stratford.
“All of this leaves us in a very good place. But we cannot be complacent and there is still much to be done to maintain the momentum coming out of the Games.
“We have already turned our attention to Sochi and Rio and are working hard to ensure that we do everything possible to enable the athletes to deliver their personal best performances that will lead to medals and just as importantly, help inspire a disabled people to get active and non-disabled people to re-frame their attitudes towards disabled people.
“Whilst a home Games have brought a really positive image of disabled people to the fore, we recognise that there is still much to be done if we are to achieve our vision of ‘through sport, inspire a better world for disabled people’.
We are not at the summit, merely in the foothills of a long journey. But it is one everyone involved should relish and be committed to achieving.”