On the spot
Vice-President of the Governing Board of the International Paralympic Committee
The curtain has just fallen on the PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games. How do you assess this edition of the Paralympics in terms of sports promotion, facilities and popular enthusiasm?
The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games were fantastic and record breaking in multiple areas with athletes once again raising the bar with their performances.
The Games attracted more athletes and countries than ever before, while more media and broadcasters were in attendance. More countries made the medals table and more countries won gold than previous editions. With ticket sales reaching 343,000, we broke the previous record for the highest number of ticket sales, selling nearly 30,000 more than Sochi 2014.
All in all, the Games were a great success. The Organising Committee created an ideal platform for our athletes to inspire and excite the world.
What does hosting Paralympic events bring to cities?
Hosting the Paralympics brings similar benefits to many other major sporting events, but one thing that stands out and is unique to our event is that the Games act as a catalyst to the host city and host country improving its approach to social inclusion.
Ahead of the Barcelona 92 Paralympics, the city was not accessible at all. Now it is one of the most accessible cities in Europe.
Prior to Beijing 2008, China’s 83 million people with an impairment were excluded from society. The country was inaccessible, inhospitable and, in many ways, inhumane to anyone with an impairment.
Winning the right to host the 2008 Paralympics Games, however, acted as a trigger for the Chinese government to improve the lives of people with an impairment and protect their rights as equal members of society.
To meet the requirements of the Games, new legislation on the building of accessible facilities was passed. In the seven years leading up to the Games, RMB 1billion – equivalent to EUR 124 million and the sum of the last 20 years’ investment – was spent on making 14,000 facilities, including roads, transport hubs and public buildings, accessible throughout China.
Thanks to the Paralympic Games, people in China now have a greater knowledge and understanding of disability. People with a disability now enjoy a better social status; more public attention, respect, improvement of social security, easier access to employment, better education opportunities, and much more.
Had Beijing not staged the 2008 Paralympic Games, such monumental change would not have taken place.
Sochi’s election in 2007 as host city of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games led – for the first time – to Russian authorities and society paying attention to the issue of inclusion, and creating accessible environments for all.
New legislation was passed and the Organising Committee created a barrier-free environment, ensuring that everything built for the Games was accessible for all.
Sochi is now a blueprint for the rest of Russia, with 200 cities using what was created for the Games as a guide to furthering their own accessibility.
How (and how much) promotion of Paralympic sports and programmes for disabled people are boosted and sustainably implemented after such major events?
We see governments around the world paying greater attention to Para sport following a Games. Since London 2012 there has been record investment in developing and promoting Para sports in Great Britain. As a result, many athletes are now household names known for their abilities as opposed to perceived disabilities.
In Brazil, ahead of Rio 2016 a new state-of-the-art training centre was built in Sao Paulo for the Brazilian Paralympic Committee. Catering for 16 sports, it means that Brazilian Para athletes now benefit from some of the best training facilities in the world.
Since Seoul 1988 for Summer Games and Albertville 1992 for Winter Games, Paralympic Games are held in the same cities and venues as the Olympic Games. How has being “coupled” with the Olympics changed the organisation, the perception and the development of the Paralympic Games?
Having the two Games together as one festival of sport brings great benefits to both the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.
Clearly, the Paralympics benefits from the fantastic infrastructure and venues that are created for the Games. Sharing the platform with the Olympics also helps to drive awareness and interest. Since both Games came together, the Paralympics have enjoyed exponential growth and today are the world’s number one sport event for driving social inclusion. I doubt this would have happened had we not held the Games in the same cities as he Olympics.
What are the best examples of interesting and sustainable experiences or initiatives induced by the Paralympic Games specifically that remain in Host Cities in terms of legacy?
Barcelona 92 is a superb example. Winning the right to stage the Games completely transformed the city. A lot of work was done on making the city more accessible, but what is most impressive is that this work continued post-Games and is still ongoing today. It is impossible to make a huge city such as Barcelona fully accessible in the period between a city wining a big and hosting the Games. What is important is that the Games act as the catalyst and the good work continues afterwards.
To get more information:
PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games
Para sports and Paralympic events calendar
City of Lausanne
P.O. Box 6904
CH - 1002 Lausanne
T + 41 21 315 24 49
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