Paralympic success breeds golden funding settlement

Britain’s Paralympians have been rewarded for their success at London 2012 with a huge leap in funding to take them through to the next Paralympic Games in Rio in four years’ time.

UK Sport announced the 43 per cent increase in funding for Paralympic sports – to £70.2 million from £49 million in the run-up to London – compared with a rise of five per cent for Olympic sports.

UK Sport said its goal was “to become the first nation in recent history” to win more medals at both the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games four years after hosting the Games.

It said the increased support – provided through National Lottery and government funding – reflected the “increasing competitive nature” of Paralympic sport and the growing opportunities for international competition.

Funding was announced for 19 Paralympic sports, with the largest increases for athletics, sailing, shooting, table-tennis, women’s goalball, judo, cycling and wheelchair tennis.

There was funding for the first time for canoeing and triathlon (sports that were not part of the London 2012 Paralympic Games), and five-a-side (blind) football, while boccia, adaptive rowing, swimming, equestrian dressage, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby also saw their funding increase.

But both archery and powerlifting were told their funding would be cut, while four sports which had British teams competing at London 2012 missed out on funding altogether: seven-a-side (cerebral palsy) football, sitting volleyball, wheelchair fencing and men’s goalball.

David Clarke, Britain’s five-a-side captain at London 2012, who announced his retirement from the sport after the Games, told his Twitter followers that it was “a proud day for blind football in Great Britain”.

One of his former team-mates, Keryn Seal, tweeted: “Today is a great day for blind football. Tonight I’ll be raising a glass to all the people who’ve brought us to this point.”

Robin Williams, another of the stars of Britain’s five-a-side team, added: “What a momentous, incredible, fantastic day for us and our sport. All of those words in one.”

Jeff Davis, performance manager of Paralympic football, said the money would enable blind football to “make the leap from part-time status to a full-time element”, although the FA has not yet been able to clarify exactly what this will mean.

Kylie Grimes, a member of the wheelchair rugby team that finished fifth in London, tweeted that her sport’s increased funding was the “best news ever for Great Britain wheelchair rugby”.

Martine Wright, who had won a BBC Sports Personality of the Year award only two days before the funding levels were announced, said she was “shocked” by the decision on her sport of sitting volleyball, but also tweeted: “This is the time to be positive about funding. Decisions have been made, so we need to think we’ve done it before and we will do it again!!”

Justin Phillips, a member of the men’s team that finished eighth at London 2012, tweeted that sitting volleyball was one the most watched sports at London 2012, and added: “Legacy? What legacy? A lot of people’s lives and dreams left devastated. UK Sport have a lot of explaining to do.”

Fencer Gemma Collis tweeted that she was “gutted” to hear that her sport had lost all of its UK Sport funding, but added: “Going to be really hard, but determined to still make it to Rio.”

Her team-mate David Heaton added: “Oh well, looks like we will be shaking buckets for a while!!”

And another fencing team-mate, Craig McCann, tweeted: “Life just got very hard but fighting is what I do!”

The British Paralympic Association said the extra funding would help with its goal of ensuring London 2012 was “a springboard onto greater things”, and said it was “delighted that the strong performance of the Paralympics GB team in London has acted as the catalyst” for the money.

But a BPA spokeswoman warned of an “increasing level of sophistication and investment” in Paralympic sport by other nations and that London 2012 had showed “just how tough the competition is getting”.

Hugh Robertson, the Conservative sports minister, said the “significant increase for Paralympic sports reflects on the extraordinary success and achievements of our Paralympic athletes this summer”.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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London 2012: Games could face legal action for ‘failing disabled parents’

The organisers of London 2012 could soon be facing an embarrassing legal action, over their failure to help disabled parents sit with their children to watch Paralympic events.

As the first 60 members of the 300-strong ParalympicsGB team arrived in the athletes’ village this week, and with the opening ceremony just six days away, the London 2012 organising committee LOCOG appears to have made no effort to resolve the concerns of disabled parents planning to attend the games.

Disabled actor Melissa Chapin has been trying to work with LOCOG for the last fortnight to resolve concerns that she and other wheelchair-using parents with Paralympic tickets will not be able to sit with their children and friends.

She has been asking LOCOG to take steps to ensure that more wheelchair-users who bring their children with them to venues such as the ExCeL centre – which has mostly unreserved seating – will be able to sit next to them.

She has tickets for two days of competition at Excel – which is hosting sports such as sitting volleyball, powerlifting, table-tennis and boccia – on September 2 and 3.

On the first day, she will be joined by a wheelchair-using British Falklands veteran, her seven-year-old twins, and two personal assistants, but there is no guarantee that they are going to be able to sit together.

She has already been contacted on Twitter by 10 other disabled parents with similar concerns.

She believes LOCOG will not be able to rely on its volunteers – or “games makers” – to resolve problems on the day, because they will be swamped by disabled parents with similar seating needs.

Chapin has also pointed out that LOCOG stopped wheelchair-users from buying tickets through its website last November, forcing them instead to use an 0844 telephone number, as reported by Disability News Service.

She said this had made it impossible for disabled parents to buy tickets for themselves and their children.

LOCOG has so far refused to work with Chapin to find a solution to her concerns, or to comment on the issue to Disability News Service.

Chapin said: “It is becoming a human rights issue. It is almost impossible to make me crack, but the cracks are starting to show. The twins couldn’t believe this was happening to their mum in this day and age.”

She believes LOCOG is breaching the Equality Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Meanwhile, LOCOG has struggled to explain why it chose four of the most inaccessible spots in the United Kingdom to light its four Paralympic flames.

The flames were lit by groups of scouts at the summits of the highest peaks of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The four flames are being transferred to the four capital cities, where they will be the focus of a day of “flame celebrations”, before they are brought together into a single flame at a ceremony in Stoke Mandeville. A 24-hour relay will then take the single flame to the opening ceremony in east London.

A LOCOG spokesman said the idea of scaling the four peaks was about “showing what people can achieve”, and that they had “wanted to do something different and unique rather than replicate the Olympic torch relay”.

He said the idea would have come from the “creatives” in LOCOG’s torch relay team, but he said: “I don’t know specifically who had that idea.”

He added: “Unfortunately it was not going to be accessible to everybody but we tried to ensure that all the groups involved had a mixture [of disabled and non-disabled people].”

He said he believed that three of the mountaineers who took part in the flame-lighting events and “at least two or three” of each of the four groups of scouts were disabled people.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com