Paralympic Games: Meet the international fans

Irish fans in Stratford Irish fans turned heads, appearing in matching green sports tops in Stratford

Organisers estimate that up to 90% of Paralympic tickets were bought by British fans compared with about 75% for the Olympic Games.

The BBC's Maddy Savage has been to the Olympic Park in Stratford to see who are the international visitors that have made the journey to London.

As the crowds pour out of Stratford train station and begin queuing to get into the venues, there is no escaping the support from home ticket-holders.

Many are waving union flags, others have recycled Team GB T-shirts bought during the Olympics or dressed for the occasion in red, white and blue.

But every so often you see a burst of different colours. One Australian fan caused congestion as British visitors paused to take photos of his trailing yellow cape and spiky gold and green hat.

Start Quote

It's been wicked having the games in my home city and there's going to be such a hangover when it's all over ”

End Quote Chris Newton

Meanwhile, 18 teenagers turned heads as they arrived in matching green sports tops to support Irish sprinter Jason Smyth in his world record-breaking sprint in the T13 100m and Michael McCillop, who won gold in the 800m T37 final.

"Michael sometimes trains with us after school," said 15-year-old Darryl McNicholl.

"We all do athletics and cross-country running and we're here with two of our brilliant sport teachers, who somehow managed to get us tickets! It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be here to watch the best Paralympians on the planet," he added.

For James Smyth, also 15, who's not related to his idol, it was also a chance to experience London for the first time.

"I didn't know what it was like to go on an underground train before this and I hadn't seen the sights, even though England is just a short flight away. I really love the atmosphere."

Dream tickets
Alex Chabasis Alex says the Paralympics are helping disabled people to socialise

Others have travelled much further to be in London, including Alex Chabasis, 21, who had never left his village near Mount Elgon in Kenya before.

He had polio when he was a child, and now uses a wooden stick or a wheelchair to get around.

"Where I come from it is so steep and there are many places that I can't get access to," he said.

"But here it is much easier to get around and I am visiting strange places that I have never seen before. There are so many people here and I am very happy to be here right by the famous stadium!"

He visited the Olympic Park on Saturday with British Olympic rower Sir Matthew Pinsent, who met him on a trip to Kenya where he was filming the BBC's World Olympic Dreams series.

"Alex is an inspiring guy and he has huge capacity and so we thought it would be great to show him the Paralympic Games, which he had never even heard of," Pinsent said.

The project is backed by the British Council, and the two friends are currently filming a new BBC programme which will be broadcast in the UK on BBC 1 on 8 September.

Claudia Wilson (right) and her husband Cecil Germany's Claudia Wilson (right) and her husband are supporting all the athletes

"The Paralympic Games are a way of helping disabled people to meet and socialise and share their ideas and it can change their lives," explained Alex.

"The Paralympics have a huge role in breaking down those barriers that a lot of disabled people have around the world, from attitudes to access, to availability of sports facilities," Pinsent agreed.

Host hospitality

Inside the venues, many international supporters have commented on the support their athletes have had from the home crowd.

Claudia Wilson is from Berlin, Germany but currently lives in London.

"You can tell there are mainly British people here from all the flags, but everyone gets a cheer, wherever they are from, which is just great. We were in the stadium when one of China's blind sprinters broke a world record on Saturday," she said.

She was watching with her Singaporean husband Cecil who had been cajoled into wearing a T-shirt featuring the German flag.

"I guess I am supporting my wife as well as my country!" he laughed. "There aren't that many athletes here from Singapore anyway, but I believe we have done well in the table tennis, which is good."

The couple bought their tickets in the first online ballot for British residents and were also looking forward to watching equestrian events as well as the closing ceremony.

Ballot bother

But the ticketing system has disappointed others living in the host nation who were hoping to invite friends and family from abroad to watch the games.

Lorraine and Andrew Smith are from Hoddesdon, just outside London, and wanted to get tickets for their son Rob, who met his girlfriend Tess Syndall in Australia and now lives there.

Paralympics coverage online

Natasha Baker, Paralympic torch,  Arnaud Assouman

"I knew they were coming over during the Paralympics, so I thought it would be perfect to get tickets for us all and to show off our city to Tess. But I have spent hundreds of hours online and it has come to nothing. Don't get me started, I could complain for hours!" exclaimed Mrs Smith.

The family still decided to travel to Stratford to experience the atmosphere and planned to watch the sporting action on some of the big screen TVs that have been installed in the area.

Rio dreams

An exact breakdown of how many tickets were purchased in different countries won't be available until after the games, according to the London Organising Committee.

But organisers of Rio 2016 might want to start thinking ahead about how many tickets they allocate to British fans, who have been inspired by their country hosting the competition.

"It's been wicked having the Games in my home city and there's going to be such a hangover when it's all over," says Chris Newton, 31, who is from London but currently lives in Amsterdam.

"I'm trying to persuade my mates and my girlfriend to start saving now and get Rio in their diaries!"

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