Dr Phillip Lee MP: Let's make Paralympics a long-term winnerBy Dr Phillip Lee MP
August 28, 2012
The Paralympics have grown from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948 to become one of the largest international sporting events by the early 21st Century.
And I am very proud to welcome the biggest Paralympic Games to date in London, opening on August 29.
The London Olympic and Paralympic Games provide the opportunity to make a lasting legacy for sport in this country and a big part of that means encouraging more disabled people to be taking part in competitive sports.
Indeed, the Office for Disability Issues estimates there are around 11 million disabled people in the UK, but less than two in 10 disabled people in England are taking part in sport.
This makes it clear there is still a long way to go before disabled people who want to play sports can feel they have every opportunity to do so and we need to ensure a memorable experience of sport and physical activity as given to able-bodied people.
Many are not aware of all the sports on offer.
Each sport at the Paralympic Games requires different skills and competencies as the impact of impairment on the performance of the athletes varies.
That is why each sport has its own unique classification rules.
Sporting activities range from Paralympics archery with 140 athletes displaying concentration and nerves of steel as they compete for gold, to the Paralympic athletics with 1,100 athletes competing for 170 gold medals.
The athletes will demonstrate great strength, power and speed during the competitions.
Some athletes compete in wheelchairs, others with prostheses, and others with the guidance of a sighted companion.
Perhaps one of the most popular Paralympic sports is goalball, which is played competitively in more than 100 countries.
It was initially developed as a rehabilitation activity for injured soldiers returning from World War II, Goalball has now become one of the most popular sports at the Paralympics.
Locally, the Berkshire School Games celebrated the Paralympics and embraced the principals the Games bring with them; courage, determination and inspiration.
The two-day event showcased disabled sport with a team from the Finchampstead Baptist Centre’s All Stars competing in sport hall athletics and many more.
The many encouraging activities provided an excellent opportunity for all the students to feel a great sense of fulfilment and team work.
The event set an excellent example and taught people to understand that, despite difference, everyone has a value.
In a nutshell, perhaps now is the time to ride the wave of interest in sports and build a sustainable and inspiring future for budding athletes in the Bracknell constituency.
I would like to see a truly lasting legacy from these Paralympics and a big part of that means more young people taking part in competitive sport.
I hope that in the future this engagement will be led by parents and communities creating a culture where competitive sports can thrive.
Finally, I congratulate all of our athletes selected to represent Paralympics GB.
This amazing achievement is the result of years of training and hard work – we will all be right behind you cheering you on as you represent the best of British.