2012 Paralympics: IPC chief predicts successful Games

LONDON 2012 PARALYMPIC GAMES

Date:
29 August - 9 September, 2012
Coverage:
25 hours of programmes and news from the London Games will be broadcast on 5 live, with commentary and analysis on 5 live sports extra and reports on the BBC Sport website

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GB athletes gear up for Paralympics

As president of the International Paralympic Committee and a former British Paralympian myself, I'm delighted that the Paralympic Games will be coming home to Great Britain in a year's time.

The Paralympic movement began in Britain in 1948 with the first National Games at Stoke Mandeville - the brainchild of Sir Ludwig Guttmann - and that led to the first Paralympics in Rome in 1960.

If you look at the progress that has been made over previous Games, highlighted by Beijing in 2008, which was the most amazing experience of my life, this is a great opportunity to build on that and learn from it to bring it back to the country where it all started.

Spectators coming along to the London Paralympics can expect an incredible Games with incredible athletes and great sport on a par with the Olympics, and I would encourage as many people as possible to get tickets.

There will be more athletes than ever competing - 4,200 from 150 countries, including 300 from Great Britain - and for both athletes and spectators it is going to be a unique opportunity to be part of a massive global event.

I competed at five Paralympic Games from 1972 to 1988 in wheelchair basketball and also in swimming in 1972, before becoming an administrator.

There have been many stand-out events and, despite the successes of Sydney in 2000 and Beijing eight years later - and indeed all of the other Games - for me the one which made the biggest difference to the Paralympic movement was Barcelona in 1992.

It was the Olympics after I retired and I was a technical delegate for wheelchair basketball. At previous Games there had been maybe around 1,000 spectators watching our matches, including in 1984 at Stoke Mandeville, but in Barcelona there were 12,500 people there, which was an incredible experience for the players, and when you add in the increased media coverage the Games received, I knew then that Paralympic sport had a big future.

I would love to have competed in front of that sort of a crowd in Barcelona - and we had more watching in Sydney and Beijing.

However, I'm not at all envious of those British athletes who are getting ready to compete in front of their home crowds in sell-out venues at the 2012 Games. I had a fantastic career in one of the best sports in the world and I am still there as part of the Games.

I became IPC president in 2001 and I'm very proud to have that role for a home Games and particularly proud when Britain wins a gold medal.

I remember watching some cycling in Beijing along with the IPC vice-president, who is Spanish, and another Australian vice president, and we were fervently cheering on our respective nations because that is part of sport.

Since I've been president, the Paralympics has never been overshadowed by the Olympics. It is important for an organising committee to devote enough time and personnel to organise a tremendous Paralympics and, as director of Paralympic Integration at Locog, Chris Holmes is doing a great job to ensure that happens.

In the past, some organising committees maybe concentrated more on the Olympics, but London was committed to the Paralympics from before the bidding process and is excited about the task at hand, even though Beijing set a high benchmark.

You can feel in the air whether a Paralympic Games is successful or not. There will be a great number of spectators having a great time and there is no reason why London shouldn't build on past successes and be the best Games yet.

Sir Philip Craven was speaking to BBC Sport's Elizabeth Hudson