More people across the Commonwealth are being excited by Paralympic Sport.
That is the view of International Paralympic Committee President, Sir Philip Craven, who has fond memories of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and believes that Para-sport can continue its meteoric rise between now and the Gold Coast Games in 2018.
Craven believes that the profile Paralympic sport received by being part of the Games in Scotland helped it grow again, following the most successful ever Paralympic Games in London in 2012.
“The atmosphere in Glasgow, particularly at Tollcross, was amazing and the way the fans took to para-swimming and para-sport was tremendous. I went to see different sports, not just para-sports, and wherever we went there was this unique atmosphere portraying Glasgow as one of the great sporting cities of the world.
“Of course, we’ve had full medal events at previous Commonwealth Games but there were more events than ever in Glasgow and I just think that there were great venues, great spectators and great athletes.”
Now the focus turns to 2018, when Team England’s athletes will join the rest of the Commonwealth nations in Australia for the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast. Para-sport has been confirmed for a number of sports, including swimming and athletics and Sir Philip recognises the importance of the Commonwealth Games for para-sport.
“It’s very important for us at the IPC, especially as we don’t have integrated representation at many other events; most of our events are stand-alone, for example, the Paralympic Games.
“We don’t want to dominate the Commonwealth Games with para-events, but we are pleased to be able to have a presence. It’s really important to get all of the Commonwealth nations to realise just how great para-sport is and get them to start developing para-sport in their own nations.”
This year, the World’s best para-swimmers, from over 60 countries, will return to Tollcross International Swimming Centre in Glasgow, for the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships.
“The UK has hosted some amazing competitions; London in 2012, followed by Glasgow 2014 and now we’ve got the IPC Swimming World Championships. Tollcross proved itself to be a world-class venue at the Commonwealth Games, with large crowds and great support.
“When I was a wheelchair basketball player I didn’t play in front of too many spectators and it was far better to play in a small full venue, as opposed to a half empty larger venue. Now all that has changed and thousands of spectators come out to watch para-sport, proving that para-sport can bring in spectators just like any other sport.”
Para-sport now receives great exposure, with many events being broadcast on television, radio and being reported on extensively in the media and online, ensuring that people are aware of the talented para-athletes that compete.
Sir Philip added, “It takes five minutes for people to get hooked to para-sport, they need to feel it, experience it and now they are doing that thanks to major events like the Commonwealth Games and IPC Swimming World Championships. It gives them the chance to see these inspirational athletes compete to a high standard, despite any disability
“If para-athletes are inspirational, it’s firstly because they are great athletes; they train as hard as all the other athletes, in any sporting event, and you could even argue they train even harder.
I say; ‘good athletes, great sport’. When you go and see para-swimming for example, you see swimmers in the flesh and you see the incredible speed that they move through the water. Hopefully this encourages people to get out there and be inspired by what these individuals can do. It’s not what they haven’t got, it’s utilising what they have got and that is a lesson for the world.”
The 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships take place from 13-19 July at Glasgow’s Tollcross International Swimming Centre. It is one of the biggest para-swimming events; bringing together 550 of the best swimmers from around the world for what will be a week-long celebration of world-class para-sport.
Tickets are now available via www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Glasgow2015