LOCOG’s (London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games) motto for the London 2012 is to “Inspire A Generation” through sport. The general perception of the Olympics and the Paralympics is that they have, so far, managed to achieve this.
The Paralympics however have not just achieved inspiration of those who perhaps didn’t believe they could achieve in sport. It has also educated millions of the watching public in the endeavours, hard work and dedication put in by disability athletes.
Often, disability sport is overlooked in this country. However, with the Paralympics in London, Britain has responded. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Paralympians have turned their dreams into reality, often in the face of adversity and against all the odds, and they have been watched by thousands of fans who have flocked to Paralympic venues right across the capital to watch a plethora of sports, some that they perhaps haven’t even heard of.
Sports such as “sitting volleyball“, “boccia” and “goalball” have been thrust into the limelight. The public have been educated, not only in how these sports work, but also on the differing level of disabilities that people possess and how sport can help them challenge their disabilities.
People have watched as achievements of athletes in the Olympics have not only been matched by Paralympians, but, on occasions, surpassed. Athletes such as Ellie Simmonds and David Weir have become national stars and heroes, ranking alongside double Olympic champion Mo Farah and heptathlete Jessica Ennis.
The public has been made more aware of how sport can be used to tackle disabilities, that it can, indeed, be an outlet for the disabled and that, no matter how severe a person’s disability, they can, through hard work and perseverance, achieve on the world stage. And that is truly inspiring.
The true results of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and whether indeed participation levels in sport have been increased in Great Britain will not become clear this summer. Nor, in earnest, next summer. But what is clear so far is that millions of the general public now look at disability sport with a different perception, a new found respect and with a much broader mind.