Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Paralympics can change perceptions of people with disabilities; public wants more media coverage

From The Telegraph in the UK:

As the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) celebrates its 20th anniversary, president Sir Philip Craven believes there is heightened excitement and great potential for changes in perceptions about disability as “the Paralympic Games returns home”.

"It is really exciting that the Paralympic Games are coming home to Britain. They started in Stoke Mandeville near Aylesbury on a little piece of land which created this great Paralympic spirit,” said Sir Philip.

"No one knew it could create that spirit and that is now to come shining through in London, where I think that will happen again. We had no idea of the success Beijing would have before the Games. I think we have that same drive with three years to go in making sure the Games are about athletes and spectators."

Sport on television Craven, 59, from Lancashire, is a former British wheelchair basketball player, widely considered the best in the world in his day, and has now been in his role eight years since being voted president.

Craven insists a shift in perceptions of Paralympic sport and towards the disabled in society has come about. “Over the eight years Paralympic sport has become something in the hearts and and minds of spectators and television audiences and it will be about growing that and building a relationship. People who say it is not a sport are usually people who have not seen it. When people look at (sprinter) Oscar Pistorius, they see him as an incredible athlete."

The Paralympic supremo believes London 2012, given the profile Britain’s team have brought to it, have finished fourth or higher in the medal table at the last four Games, will give the Games a greater platform to start from.

"The British public know about the Paralympic Games but they need to see more on television and that is what we have got to achieve. China did not wait for the Games to try and appeal to the public and get them interested.”

Sir Philip said: "It is important for LOCOG (the London organising committee), and for me personally, that the volunteer programme has to have a broad reach and have a primarily British presence, a representative one, and not just filled by people who are from London.”

However, Telegraph Sport revealed last month that research commissioned by London 2012 found that, on average, 69 per cent of those surveyed could not name a Paralympian, whereas 94 per cent of the UK public have heard of the Paralympic Games.

The 2012 research also indicated that 69 per cent of the public would like to see more media coverage of Paralympic world.