This year, the Paralympics will have more TV coverage than ever before, and with the success of the Olympics, the momentum will only build over the next month. Here are some facts about the Paralympics to introduce you to it.
It’s worth stating to begin with that Paralympic athletes are elite, world-class athletes. Like all athletes, they train hard, look after their bodies, eat carefully, and have a determination and drive that is to be admired by all of us. Though not as big as the Olympics, the Paralympics is still the second biggest sporting competition in the world. Look out for Anne Wafula Strike, a wheelchair racer who came to speak at the2012 commissioning event in April; Ellie Simmonds, teenage swimming star; and Oscar Pistorius, the ‘blade-runner’, who’s already been competing for South Africa in the Olympics.
There are only 21 sports in the Paralympics. Some are adapted versions of regular Olympic sports – eg wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. Others are unique to the Paralympics. Look out for Boccia, a sport a bit like boules involving directing a ball to hit a jack, and Goalball, a game somewhat like Handball, played with blindfolds and a team of three. If you want a fun way to get active in your church, a Seniors vs Youth game of Boccia could be a great way to start! (Those with mobility impairments can use a ramp to direct their ball, which can be operated by giving instructions to an assistant.)
The Torch Relay
Unlike the Olympic flame, the Paralympic flame can be split to allow it to travel to multiple destinations. A flame will be lit in each capital city – London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff – and will be taken to Stoke Mandeville to combine to make the torch relay flame. It is then run to London to start the Games.
The Dates: 24 August to 9 September
It’s nearly here! The key dates of the Paralympics are:
Torch relay festivals: London – 24 August; Belfast – 25 August; Edinburgh – 26 August; Cardiff – 27 August; Stoke Mandeville – 28 August.
The Opening Ceremony is on Wednesday 29 August, and the Closing Ceremony on Sunday 9 September.
The transport implications
- Although traffic and congestion during the Olympics has been fairly light, it’s worth bearing in mind that half of the competition takes place after schools have gone back, and business begins again in earnest. And Paralympic athletes tend to have more equipment, which will be driven around on Games Lanes. So continue to use www.getaheadofthegames.com to plan your journeys.
- The majority of events take place on the Olympic Park (Earl’s Court, Wembley, and Wimbledon are no longer in use), so these place will be quieter.
- It’s predicted that a higher proportion of spectators will have disabilities themselves. So if you’re in the habit of giving directions to lost tourists, be aware that not all tube stations have lifts, and even then some are quite complicated to get around in a wheelchair. Take time to learn your regular stations well.
Watching the Paralympics
The tickets are quickly selling out, so get them while you can! If you’re planning to screen events at church, the coverage is on Channel 4, and you may need a special licence to show it. With over 150 hours of coverage, this should be the most watched Paralympics ever. So get together and get ready to enjoy some more world-class sport!
To find out more, visit www.london2012.com/paralympics.