Monday, 27 August 2012

Bring on the Paralympics!

Everyone who loved the London 2012 Olympics will be eagerly awaiting the start of the Paralympic Games this week. My enjoyment of the Paralympics has already begun!

Saturday 25th August saw me proudly donning my Ambassadors uniform again for a Paralympic Flame Celebration event based at the London 2012 Live Site in Coventry. 

Coventry had been chosen as one of 36 communities across the country to host Flame Celebrations for the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay as part of the programme of events taking place over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Coventry City Council invited everyone to come and celebrate the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay with a celebration of disability sport, art and culture as part of the nationwide Flame celebrations.

Community groups and Paralympic athletes past and present were celebrating and the  Lord Mayor Cllr Tim Sawdon was there to welcome the Paralympic Flame lantern from London, brought into the celebration by Rita Thompson, Coventry’s former Paralympic Gold Medalist and Paralymic Flame Ambassador.


I was lucky enough to have a go at a number of the activities on offer. Including wheelchair basketball. Sadly, I showed no skills what so ever! As I got into the chair and it began rolling down hill I was convinced that any minute now someone would grab it and stop me rolling. But no-one did! 
I have so much admiration for these players. I couldn't manage to stop the chair rolling away with me, steer, prevent accidents with other players and then catch the ball too! I just didn't have enough hands to do everything!

One very inspirational player, Jacob (on the left in the picture above) told the crowd that he is aiming to be chosen for the GB squad for Rio in 2016. Before losing a leg he was a keen Rugby player and after watching the Bejing Olympics in 2008 he was inspired to take up wheelchair basketball. 
He spoke about his club striving to show 'sport over adversity' and I have absolutely no doubt that we will be hosting celebrations in Coventry in 2016 when Jacob does us proud in Rio.

Other activities I tried included Tandem cycling and blindfold football. Coventry Visually Impaired and Sighted Tandem Association (Coventry VISTA, for short) aim to enable the Visually Impaired to discover and enjoy the pleasures of cycling. A sighted 'pilot' rides on the front of the tandem while the visually impaired 'Stoker' riders on the rear.  On Saturday the group offered visitors the opportunity to be a 'stoker' by wearing special glasses to restrict vision. This really gave everyone an opportunity to experience the way a visually impaired rider would feel.

The blindfold football was (excuse the pun) also an 'eye opener'. The participants on Saturday were mostly children, although it was open to everyone. Here, the youngsters had to stand in a line and pass the ball, containing a bell, through their legs before dribbling to the front of the line with it and starting again. It's much harder than it looks and I can't imagine how the athletes at the games will hear the bell in their games with the cheers expected from the crowd!

The Ambassadors were joined for a photocall by Lady Godiva who thanked us for volunteering during the Olympics. She told us we had made Coventry proud.

It was a real thrill to meet one of Coventry's past Olympians, and an ex world record holder, Dave Moorcroft. 

Dave has been very active in the work to promote local involvement in the London 2012 games.  He is Director of Sport for Join In Local Sport, a UK national multi-sport event which aimed to encourage local sports clubs in the UK to put on sporting activities on 18th/19th August 2012.

We were all thrilled to hear from Dave that he has been told by so many people that Coventry's enthusiasm for the games was recognised as the best UK celebration outside of London. He went on to thank everyone involved and said he was so proud of the ambassadors for welcoming the world to our city. He also said that both the Canadian and Japanese football teams had told him how welcome they felt when they came here to play during the games.

Dave was travelling with part of the Paralympic flame over the weekend.  The flame had been split into 36 smaller flames which were being carried in lanterns. As the Paralympics draw nearer the 36 smaller flames will come together and  reunite in London.

So as another Olympic and Paralympic celebration came to an end in Coventry there is really only one thing left to say - Bring on the Paralympics and let the next stage of the games begin!

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