May 30, 2012
The Fresh Outlook
The preparations are in full swing for this year’s Paralympics with Cardiff looking to help Team GB achieve monumental success.
With less than 100 days to go, the Welsh capital will this year be playing host to the South African and Australian Paralympic teams. On top of this their academies look set to bolster Team GB’s ranks with up to 31 Welsh athletes.
The organisation behind this has seen a combined effort between the Welsh government, local authorities and Disability Sport Wales to make this year’s games memorable for everyone involved.
Figures have already revealed this years Paralympics has sold over 1.2 million of its 2.2 million tickets, a feat which has seen Paralympic officials predict that the London games could become the first to completely sell out in the event’s 52-year history.
The reason behind such a peak in interest has been reported to be Channel 4’s pre-games coverage (as well as broadcasting of the games) and also wider awareness of Paralympic sport being spread throughout the UK.
One of the organisations responsible for raising that awareness is Disability Sport Wales. Ahead of preparing to accommodate and host the training camps for the Australian and South African teams, academy manager for Disability Sport Wales Gerwyn Jones spoke to The Fresh Outlook to tell us how the preparations for the event are going.
“With the partnerships we have in place we are well positioned to deliver a unique experience to the [Australian and South African] teams whilst in Wales. Over and above providing the services to the teams whilst they are here, it will be good to share practices with these countries to learn more about how they work, as well as welcoming and promoting Wales to the team, and their country,” he said.
Indeed the involvement of Disability Sport Wales itself is a story after the organisations rise over the last 10 years, which Gerwyn explained further: “In 2002 we engaged 22 Local Authority Officers to create opportunities for people with a disability. At that time we could account for 1800 participatory opportunities.
By 2011 that had grown to nearly a million opportunities. We have over 350 clubs offering disability sport or an inclusive opportunity for people to take part in sport, but we can’t sit still. Our main focus moving forward will be a new project ‘insport’ where we will be working with governing bodies of sport, clubs and local authorities to ensure that they are providing inclusive opportunities in all their activities.”
Indeed, Cardiff’s disability programmes and academies outshine many others throughout the UK. This alone makes it even more fitting that the city should have such an involvement in this years Paralympics. Gerwyn put into perspective the achievements Welsh athletes attained in Beijing as he told us: “Beijing 2008 saw 31 Welsh athletes represent ParalympicsGB. That’s 15% of the team. For a country making up 5% of the population, we were definitely batting above our weight. We brought back 14 medals, of which 25% of the GB team gold medal tally were won by Welsh athletes.”
With the full ParalympicGB squad set to be announced on July 9th, like many others Gerwyn is optimistic about Wales playing its part in making this years Paralympics far exceed those of previous years.
“As it’s a home games it will be on a scale we have never seen before. The Chinese obviously put on a good show, but I feel that London has got the balance right on the structural side of the Games, whilst looking more on the legacy side of things. For us this is important, as we feel if we can’t take advantage of these Games being on our doorstep, then we are missing a trip. If we can get the athletes to inspire future Paralympians we need to make sure our clubs, sports and local authorities are ready to open their doors to more disabled members.”
The Paralympics will begin on August 29 with live coverage being shown on Channel 4. The full GB squad will be announced on July 9.
By Gareth Lovell
[Image courtesy of Elliot Brown]