Video: Disability sports in Suffolk will be boosted by London2012 Paralympic Games
THE PARALYMPIC Games has dramatically increased the profile of disability sports in Suffolk, according to charity bosses.
Speaking as the flame toured the county, David Finn, leisure services manager of disability charity Optua, said the spotlight on the London-based games had already led to a rise in the uptake of disability sports and an awareness of what disabled people can do.
Mr Finn, who helped organise the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay in Suffolk and has led Optua’s Disability Sport Academy, said people who had come to see the flame had been “genuinely interested” in what it represents.
“I think it’s gone even better than we expected, we have been warmly welcomed at all the events. There has been a really high number of people and a mix of ages, from teens to older people and families.
“People seem to be really genuinely interested in the flame and what it represents, it has been fantastic.”
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He added: “It is raising the awareness of the Paralympic Games and disability sports to another level. We could not have imagined the massive interest this time around with the games being held in London. And, from a local perspective, it is about encouraging all people who have disabilities to get involved.”
Mr Finn, who was part of a team of six travelling with the flame, said attitudes had been shifted by seeing disabled athletes with the flame.
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He added: “I think the vast majority didn’t realise how vast the paralympic movement is. The biggest thing for me personally is that people see athletes with disabilities as athletes first and foremost.
“It takes just as much effort, if not more, to get to the top as it does with an Olympic sport. I think that people are now becoming more aware of that and have real respect for what people with disabilities can do.”
He added that it’s now key that sports development officers, clubs and volunteers all work together to keep the profile of disability sports high.
“Where the flame has been there have been lots of sports going on and people trying different sports and they have all been asking where they can get involved. Locally and nationally it is going to have a massive impact.
“It’s brought disabilities sports on years. We could not afford the kind of advertisement that the Paralympics has provided.”