21 May represents 100 days to go to the start of the Paralympic Games in London. The Paralympics are sometimes seen as an afterthought to the “main” Olympic event. This will not be the case for London 2012.
As I told Vatican Radio, London 2012 are the first Games that bring the organisation of the Olympics and the Paralympics fully together.
This is right. The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will provide a catalyst for changing perceptions of disabled people. But there are also good historical reasons. We are proud that the Paralympics are returning to the country that established what was later recognised as the Paralympic movement. It was Dr Ludwig Guttman, then treating wounded WWII war veterans at Stoke Mandeville hospital, who in 1948 – the year of the second London Olympics – initiated an archery competition for his patients. Dutch athletes took part four years later and by the 1960 Games, the Rome Olympics, 400 athletes from 21 countries were involved. The Paralympic Games were born.
Things have changed. This year there will be 4,200 athletes competing in 20 different sports, Two million people will watch. We are confident that, across the world, people will see disability in a different light – visibly, positively, and more knowledgeably. The Paralympics are not an add-on. They will be an integral part of the 2012 Games.
UK Ambassador to the Holy See