London prepares for welcome again

Record number of athletes set to appear in Paralympics.

Afp August 22, 2012

PARIS: The world’s top athletes with a disability, including ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius, converge on London next week for what organisers say will be the biggest and most high-profile Paralympics in the Games’ 52-year history.

A record 4,200 athletes from 166 countries will be in the British capital, with the 11-day Games a near sell-out and expected to be watched by an estimated global television audience of four billion people. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said that history, a desire to see more elite sport after a successful Olympics, increased media coverage and sponsorship have combined to drive up interest and awareness. “There’s a fantastic buzz in the air, waiting for it to kick off and people talking about it,” IPC President Philip Craven told AFP.

China held the last Paralympics in Beijing in 2008 and did much to raise the Games’ profile. The previous hosts won 211 medals, including 89 gold, and will be looking to replicate that success this time round. But challenging them will be the current hosts, who came third in the Olympics medal table, galvanising wide support for the Games across the country and lifting a national mood hit by lingering economic woes.

London organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe has repeatedly maintained that the Paralympics and the Olympics are two equal parts of the same event.

“We want to change public attitudes towards disability, celebrate the excellence of Paralympic sport and to enshrine from the very outset that the two Games are an integrated whole,” said Coe.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2012.